2019 Fantasy Baseball Draft Outline – Who To Target And When

Nick Pollack details his plan for drafts in 2019, telling you the players to target by position and by round.

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 with whom I’m in a league), I’m going to outline my entire draft plan for 2019, from whom I’m targeting in each round to which positions I’m focusing on getting early in the draft and those on which to wait. 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 with 23 rounds. It still applies to most variants, but obviously, it’s not a one-size-fits-all.
  • I have purposefully left some holes because drafts are fluid creatures that need affection and constant attention to nail down just right.
  • Don’t follow this so rigidly that when Carlos Carrasco falls to the eighth 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 who have round labels well before or after their ADP. Either I want to reach or I’ve seen them fall consistently 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.

I’ve done more mocks this offseason than any other year, testing strategies from different positions, and I’m going to bring in more bullet points to go over the general approach I have in drafts:

  • The BIGGEST note I have is to be patient grabbing startersI know, this is Pitcher List, and my confidence in finding starters is not for everyone. I urge you to just follow along this guide, and you’ll have a fantastic staff to get you through the year and win your playoffs. There is so much more starting pitching depth than people realize.
  • First base is shallow at the top with its value bookended: Grab one of the elites or wait until late.
  • Outfield and second base value lies around rounds six to 12, i.e. the opposite of first base.
  • Closers are dumb, and I hate them. You’re better off solidifying your offense than feeling OK with a stat that makes up only 10% of your week-to-week and isn’t even a guarantee.
  • The final eight rounds or so will be shooting for upside starters and bats. There are so many to choose from. I have specific guys I like; you’ll probably have different ones, and that’s cool. Get your guys.

Alright, I think you understand the flow. Get tons of offense early, with two or at most three starters in the first 10 rounds and trust in the starting pitching depth. Let’s focus on the specific players to target during your drafts by position and later round-by-round.

 

First Baseman

 

One of the toughest positions right out of the gate as I love the first three options off the board and not a whole lot after. I’ve seen Paul Goldschmidt and Freddie Freeman fall to the middle or end of the second rounds, and I’d love to grab them there if I’m slotted in the front half of the draft, maybe slightly early in the second round if few starting pitchers are taken. I’m hoping to grab Anthony Rizzo at back end or front of the fourth if I have a later pick, then otherwise, I’m waiting a long time to find my first basemen if the current options go at their ADP.

Then it gets a bit fishy. I don’t love Cody Bellinger/Rhys Hoskins/Matt Carpenter/Joey Votto at their prices. Jose Abreu and Jesus Aguilar also bring risk at their price, pushing my first base options past Pick 100 with Matt Olson, Edwin EncarnacionMax Muncy, Miguel Cabreraand Luke Voit  yes, that Luke Voit. If I’m still searching deep in the draft, I’m all for taking chances on Pete Alonso, Justin Smoak, Jake Bauers, Justin Bourand Trey Mancini  in that order  as I hope to find something stable.

 

PlayerRound
Paul GoldschmidtMiddle 2nd
Freddie FreemanMiddle 2nd
Anthony RizzoLate 3rd
Matt OlsonRounds 9/10
Max MuncyRounds 9/10
Edwin EncarnacionRounds 9/10
Miguel CabreraRounds 13/14/15
Luke VoitRounds 13/14/15
Peter AlonsoRound 20+
Justin SmoakRound 20+
Jake BauersRound 20+
Justin BourRound 20+
Trey ManciniRound 20+

 

Second Basemen

 

I want Jose Ramirez third overall (2B-eligible in Yahoo leagues). If I miss out on JoRam, I’m not interested in Jose Altuve/Javier Baez/Whit Merrifield/Ozzie Albies unless they dramatically fall. Gleyber Torres is an intriguing option, but his ADP is currently too high as I’d be OK taking him around rounds six or seven. Daniel Murphy‘s signing with the Rockies makes me intrigued in the sixth round as we begin getting to the meat of the 2B options. Scooter Gennett, Travis Shaw, Jonathan Villar, Robinson Canoand Jonathan Schoop become the main targets, with one of them often falling outside the first 10 rounds. I’d also consider Rougned Odor and Brian Dozier if you miss out on all the above options. For the late snags, late value could lie in Ketel Marte, Luis Urias, and Garrett Hampsonwho is ranked surprisingly low.

 

PlayerRound
Jose Ramirez (yahoo)Third Pick
Daniel MurphyRounds 6/7
Gleyber TorresRounds 6/7
Travis ShawRounds 8/9
Scooter GennettRounds 8/9
Jonathan VillarRounds 10/11
Robinson CanoRounds 10/11
Jonathan SchoopRounds 13/14
Rougned OdorRounds 13/14
Brian DozierRounds 13/14
Garrett HampsonRound 18+
Ketel MarteRound 20+
Ian KinslerRound 20+

 

Third Basemen

 

I’d get the aforementioned Ramirez at No. 3, with Nolan Arenado, Manny Machadoand Alex Bregman as worthy consolation prizes in the first round or even second round if you’re lucky. Kris Bryant is a very worthy option in the middle of the third and beyond, while Anthony Rendon should be considered early in the fourth. I’d go for Eugenio Suarez in the fifth round, though take a small break thereafter. Matt Chapman and Josh Donaldson become solid grabs in the eighth round, with Mike Moustakas and Rafael Devers becoming steals in the 11th and beyond. Later, I’d consider shares of Nick Senzel, Jake Lamband Eduardo Escobar.

 

PlayerRound
Jose RamirezThird Pick
Nolan ArenadoRound 1
Manny MachadoRounds 1/2
Alex BregmanRounds 1/2
Kris BryantRound 3
Anthony RendonRound 4
Eugenio SuarezRound 5
Matt ChapmanRounds 8/9
Josh DonaldsonRounds 8/9
Travis ShawRounds 8/9
Mike MoustakasRounds 11/12
Rafael DeversRounds 11/12
Nick SenzelRound 18+
Eduardo EscobarRound 18+
Jake LambRound 20+

 

 

Shortstops

 

With Francisco Lindor hurt, I’d still consider him at the end of the second round, though Trea TurnerMachado, Bregman, and Trevor Story should be considered first. I’m avoiding Carlos Correa and Corey Seager for their injury histories, while I like aiming for Xander Bogaerts in the late fourth or early fifth round. Gleyber Torresand Jean Segura are options in the sixth, and those who are worried about steals could consider Adalberto Mondesi as well, though I have too much skepticism of his small sample to trust it. Jonathan Villar and Jose Peraza are cheaper steals options who should suffice in the ninth and 10th (ninth for Villar here if you can smell SS getting thin, otherwise wait for 10th at 2B), with discount options following. Eduardo Escobar, Paul DeJong, Garrett Hampson, and Jorge Polanco could return solid value in the 16 round and later, while Ketel Marte and even Troy Tulowitzki could be sneaky picks at the end.

 

PlayerRound
Trea TurnerRounds 1/2
Manny MachadoRounds 1/2
Alex BregmanRounds 1/2
Trevor StoryRound 2
Francisco LindorRound 2
Xander BogaertsLate 4th/Early 5th
Jean SeguraRound 6
Gleyber TorresRounds 6/7
Jonathan VillarRounds 9/10/11
Jose PerazaRounds 9/10/11
Garrett HampsonRound 18+
Eduardo EscobarRound 18+
Jorge PolancoRound 18+
Paul DeJongRound 18+
Ketel MarteRound 21+
Troy TulowitzkiLast Round

 

Outfielders

 

With outfielders, don’t forget that you only have to fill in three slots. Most of the time, you’ll have at least one in as a UTIL, but it can limit you going elite OF in each of the first three rounds. Even so, going two early is not a bad call; just allow yourself to take advantage of rounds six to 12, where there are plenty of stellar options to grab. Early on, all of Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, JD Martinez, Christian Yelich, Ronald Acuna, Bryce Harper, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Charlie Blackmon, Andrew Benintendi, and Kris Bryant should be considered. All of them, it’s just a matter of what other positions are available, but I’d be picking these bats before any starter.

I’m ignoring the next tier of outfielders for the most part, though I’d consider Starling Marte, Khris Davis and Juan Soto in the fourth rounds. Entering the sixth, Tommy Pham, and Lorenzo Cain should be considered, with Yasiel Puig, Marcel Ozuna, Mitch Haniger, and Eddie Rosario in the following rounds. At the ninth and 10th, Aaron Hicks, and Eloy Jimenez should be heavily considered as well.

At this point, I expect to have three outfielders and turning to pure upside later in the draft. Options here include Stephen Piscotty, Brandon Nimmo, Hunter Renfroe, Franmil Reyes, Domingo Santana, Austin Meadows, Ramon Laureano, Cedric Mullinsand even Lewis Brinson.

 

PlayerRound
All Outfielders through Kris BryantRounds 1 through mid 3rd
Starling MarteRound 4
Khris DavisRound 4
Juan SotoRound 4
Tommy PhamRounds 5/6
Lorenzo CainRounds 5/6
Yasiel PuigRounds 6/7/8
Marcell OzunaRounds 6/7/8
Mitch HanigerRounds 6/7/8
Eddie RosarioRounds 6/7/8
Eloy JimenezRounds 8/9
Aaron HicksRounds 9/10
Stephen PiscottyRound 15+
Brandon NimmoRound 15+
Franmil ReyesRound 16+
Hunter RenfroeRound 16+
Domingo SantanaRound 16+
Austin MeadowsRound 16+
Ramon LaureanoRound 16+
Cedric MullinsRound 20+
Lewis BrinsonRound 20+

 

Catchers

 

The catcher game is simple as ever  either get JT Realmuto or Gary Sanchez at a discount or wait until the final rounds for a decent backstop and call it a day. If Realmuto falls to the sixth, I’m fine grabbing him there, with Sanchez needing to fall into the seventh for me to consider him.

Otherwise, my primary target is Danny Jansen around the 16th round, with backups in Wilson Ramos, Yasmani Grandal (both likely won’t drop), Francisco Mejia, Yan Gomes, and Francisco Cervellibackstops who you most likely can wait past the 18th round to snag.

Let’s move on.

 

PlayerRound
JT RealmutoRound 6
Gary SanchezRound 7
Danny JansenRound 16+
Wilson RamosRound 16+
Yasmani GrandalRound 16+
Francisco MejiaRound 18+
Yan GomesRound 20+
Francisco CervelliRound 20+

 

Starting Pitchers

 

The draft really opens up if you buy into my SP plan, which comes in two forms: Either you get great value in the third and fourth rounds, or you go a little early in the fifth and sixth and back it up with two in ninth and 10th. Either way, you’re going to grab four of my top 40 through the first 13 rounds, then grab another four or five in the final eight rounds. That’s the idea, and you’d be surprised how formidable your staff will be as you tout around one of the best offenses in the league.

Getting specific with pitchers, I’m looking to see if Trevor Bauer or Noah Syndergaard are falling to me at the end of the third or early fourth round. If not, I look to the fifth or sixth for Jameson Taillon or Mike Clevingercoming back around the eighth for Zack WheelerAround the 10th and 11th, I’m aiming for Miles Mikolas and Yu Darvishthen turning to Ross Stripling, Nick PivettaAndrew Heaneyor JA Happ to round out the first four.

Now it gets fun. There are so many options. You could shoot for ceiling in Alex Reyes, Jimmy Nelson or Joe Musgrovea bit more stability in Yusei KikuchiTyler Skaggsand Kyle Freelandor wait plenty and fill your team up with a ton of intriguing names  Michael Fulmer, Derek Holland, Collin McHugh, Matt Strahm, Reynaldo Lopezand Merrill Kelly often find their way on my teams. Jesus Luzardo, Justus Sheffield, Forrest Whitleyand even Chris Paddack make for fun final-round prospect targets, and I could also see myself grabbing Jerad Eickhoff, Jeff Samardzija, Luke Weaveror Brad Peacock if other leaguemates are aggressive at the position.

There are plenty more in addition to these names, and the goal is to have about eight starters  nine if you’re a bit lacking at the top and need to spend another bench spot on shooting for upside (take one of the prospect names in this case!). Don’t go chasing too early as the upside bats get taken earlier than the starters.

 

PlayerRound
Trevor BauerLate 3rd/Early 4th
Noah SyndergaardLate 3rd/Early 4th
Jameson TaillonLate 5th/ Early 6th
Mike ClevingerLate 5th/ Early 6th
Zack WheelerRounds 7/8
Miles MikolasRounds 9/10
Yu DarvishRounds 9/10
Ross StriplingRounds 12/13/14
Nick PivettaRounds 12/13/14
Andrew HeaneyRounds 12/13/14
JA HappRounds 12/13/14
Alex ReyesRound 14+
Yusei KikuchiRound 15+
Tyler SkaggsRound 15+
Kyle FreelandRound 15+
Jimmy NelsonRound 16+
Joe MusgroveRound 16+
Michael FulmerRound 18+
Derek HollandRound 18+
Collin McHughRound 18+
Matt StrahmRound 18+
Reynaldo LopezRound 18+
Jesus LuzardoRound 18+
Forrest WhitleyRound 18+
Merrill KellyRound 20+
Jeff SamardzijaRound 20+
Justus SheffieldRound 20+
Jerad EickhoffRound 20+
Luke WeaverRound 20+
Chris PaddackRound 20+
Brad PeacockRound 20+

 

Relief Pitchers

 

Now for closers. I don’t like closers. I will not be one to grab an elite one as there’s too much value elsewhere to spend time on saves. The rule of thumb for grabbing a closer is easy: “If there isn’t anything you like on the board, grab a closer.” This usually happens around the 11th round which means I’ve found myself with a good amount of Jose LeClerc and Kirby Yates shares. It could also mean Wade Davis as well.

Later in drafts, I’ll take a chance on Andrew Miller getting saves for the Cardinals, as well as Corey Knebel grabbing the job back in Milwaukee. Matt Barnes, Hunter Strickland, Mychal Givens, and Will Smith are all in good positions to steal the saves in their ballclubs, making for solid late-round choices as well. I’d grab two total  maybe three if they are sitting there at the end of the draft  and bank on grabbing one off the wire during the year.

 

PlayerRound
Jose LeClercRound 11
Kirby YatesRound 11
Wade DavisRound 11
Corey KnebelRound 15
Andrew MillerRound 17
Matt BarnesRound 18+
Hunter StricklandRound 18+
Mychal GivensRound 18+
Will SmithRound 18+

 

All Targets Round By Round

 

Instead of just doing one long table, I instead made this handy chart for you to reference through your draft:

 

Nick Pollack

Founder of Pitcher List. Rotographs contributor. Worked with CBS Sports, Grantland, Washington Post, and SB Nation. Former pitching coach and Brandeis alum.

  • Avatar AW says:

    Great work, Nick. Thanks for all you do.

  • Avatar Mark Trosslear says:

    Great article as always Nick. Another article written on the site mentioned Shaw’s value takes a hit after the Moustakas signing. Do you forsee any PA’s being taken away? I was thinking his value would rise, if anything. Thanks!

    • Nick Pollack Nick Pollack says:

      I actually think adding Moustakas *helps* Shaw as the better the lineup gets, the more production there is for everyone – even if a small shift in the lineup comes with it.

      Not to mention, it’s possible Shaw still hits about Moose.

      I’m still in.

  • Avatar Sean says:

    Thanks for this, super helpful.
    In your spreadsheet that you posted, is your first starting pitcher block supposed to say “Trevor Bauer, Noah Syndergaard” instead of having Clevinger? Same for the 4th round.

  • Avatar Anonymous says:

    I’m in too many leagues (all non-standard) and was about to drop my Public 5×5 because I didn’t get to do exactly this amount of fanatical prep. I owe you one, Nick!

  • Avatar Cesar says:

    Great stuff, Nick. Thank you.

    Allow me to put your Patient SP Strategy to the test. Keep 3 of these 4 in a 14-team 6×5 roto (regular 5×5 + OPS):

    Arenado
    Story
    Goldy
    deGrom

  • Avatar Ross says:

    Hey Nick – great article.

    Where on the list is the division between season-long stick-with-em pitchers and churn-and-burn drop them if they’re cold? Maybe at 39 between Happ and Skaggs?

  • Avatar theKraken says:

    Great work. I thought the current mantra has been to grab some aces early because of the glob… I completely agree that you should wait on starters. I have also done a boatload of drafts this year and the more I do, then more I am sure that waiting till round 4 is the right move, at which point you might want to grab 3 or 4 in a row and have a top staff along with 3 elite hitters. At round 4, the elite bats are gone… unless they are not, in which case you should buy another.

    The only point where you and I disagree is Corey Seager. At his ADP, he is the only potential top 10 guy in that range. Everyone has risk. IMO he is the biggest bargain in the draft if he is not broken. I mean , some guy with an ADP of 200 will be the biggest bargain, but as far as a realistic and clear path to elite potential, Seager has done it before.

    For closers, I am buying Cody Allen. Sure 2018 wasn’t great, but that is baked into the price. He has the job and a track record so I think that is a pretty good play at his ADP. Wade Davis also has a deathgrip on the role, which makes him a decent buy. Speculating on closers is a sucker bet – take the guys that have the job for a team that actually uses closers. Last note for NFBC players – having to start 5 OF means you should lean OF if it is a tossup between any other bat and an OF. That roster requirement actually creates some scarcity.

  • Avatar Beau says:

    Hey Nick,

    I appreciate your insight here. What aren your thoughts on Adalberto Mondesi and the OF’s: Conforto, Dahl, and Pollock? Where are drafting these guys if at all?

  • Avatar Ro says:

    Yeah it works, took it even further. Yesterday we drafted. Got Taillon in 12, Mikolas 13, Darvish 14, Luis Castillo 15

  • Avatar Pointman says:

    I just want to say Nick you are one of the special Fantasy writers out there. I’ve been doing this since the 80s. There are only couple others that I follow closely and put a lot stock in their words -you have now made it a trio.
    Having said that im wrestling with decision for my one eligible keeper this year. We keep one keeper from previous year that we drafted in 10th rd or acquired in free agency . We keep only for one year. I’ve narrowed it down to Corbin or Buehler. My heart says Buehler but head says Corbin. H2h league. Opinion please.

    • Nick Pollack Nick Pollack says:

      Wow, thanks Pointman!

      I’d be keeping Buehler there. Higher ceiling and floor, only question is innings. If it’s slightly uneven this year, keeping him past this year would make up for it.

  • Avatar ME says:

    This is great. Do you plan to do this type of sheet for auction style too? Or is there a way to adapt this with auction value ranges?

    • Nick Pollack Nick Pollack says:

      No plans for auction, though I think next off-season I’ll be my own hand projections + dollar values.

      I don’t like projections, but I think it’s what y’all want.

  • Avatar Dan McCabe says:

    Love your work Nick. Took home 1st place last year as a rookie using your rankings. Do you have a higher resolution of the chart? Also, how much would you change your strategy in a 6×6 with tb and qs?

    • Nick Pollack Nick Pollack says:

      I don’t think that changes a whole lot, maybe a slightly higher focus on power and late guys like Reynaldo/Samardzija/Kelly

      If you click the image, it returns a much larger resolution. Hope that helps!

  • Avatar Kevin says:

    This is awesome. I must be reading too much PitcherList this yr! Had my 14 team draft last week and ended up with a lot of your possible targets you listed:
    Batters:
    Betts, Lindor, Murphy, Schoop, KMarte, Lamb

    Pitchers:
    Carrasco, Clevinger, Darvish, Pivetta, Musgrove, Stripling, Strahm, Weaver, AMiller

    Basically the only area I ventured differently was OF. Ended up with Betts, Castellanos, Dahl, Dickerson, Buxton. Always have a hard time drafting RPs. Went with Miller and May as main saves potentials, will be waiver hunting this season.
    Hoping to compete early, make trades later. Keep up the great work!

  • Avatar James says:

    Love this article! My big question for you…. do you think in your generic fantasy league (like ESPN), do you think pitching or batting is going to win you your weekly matchup?

    I have had people in my league focus on pitching and seen a lot of success. Just wondering if I need to cave into this trend or keep to a healthy mix.

    Thanks!

  • Avatar Nick D says:

    Hey Nick, Nick here. There is no mention of George Springer in the OF section here. I know it’s because you likely will not be targeting him redrafts. Is he someone you are avoiding altogether? I might consider him if he falls to round 5 of a 12 team OPS keeper im in. Curious if you would rank him above or below guys like Ozuna, Puig, Cain, Pham.

    Thanks and keep up the outstanding work!

    • Nick Pollack Nick Pollack says:

      I think he’s a bit too hold/cold for me as his speed has tapered off over the years and he’s not the healthiest option out there.

      I’d rank it: Cain, Pham, Puig, Springer, Ozuna.

  • Avatar j says:

    Hi Nick, awesome article, you are my go to.
    any chance you can post a link to the actual chart so I can download?
    thanks again for all your work

  • Avatar Fantasy Swami says:

    I want to take a non -starter approach winning saves , era, and ratio and all the hitting categories. I plan to take hitters for the first 10 spots and focus on batting average with every selection as it applies to homeruns and steals. I will give up k’s and wins for the other 8 categories. With this approach who are my best targets 1-10 rounds.

  • Avatar Jack says:

    Nick, you are the man. I managed to snag 2nd place last year largely due to your help with the SP side of things (well, that and swapping Kris Bryant for Chris Sale early on, and Ozzie Albies for Zack Greinke late). Guys like Buehler and Flaherty went from the waivers to the top of my rotation while high picks like Darvish and Jeff, I mean Luke Weaver ended up doing nothing. (At least Darvish had an excuse.)

    Re: where to target whom, sometimes there just ends up being a big run on SPs, especially in a league like mine with 9 P slots and most people conceding saves to the couple of guys who hoard closers. Because of this, I grabbed Betts, Story, Goldy in the 1st 3 rounds at #2/#23/#26, all good value as per your notes, but then had to reach a bit for Taillon (4th), Wheeler (6th), Mikolas (7th), Marquez (8th). I still ended up with a team with nice offensive depth and a very strong SP rotation of the above plus Castillo, Pivetta, Maeda, Urias, Holland, and your boy Merrill Kelly. Maybe I would have been better off waiting? I do regret not reaching for Eloy in round 8 where I took Marquez though.

    Also, we have 5 OF spots, so I had to make a couple of decisions there after Betts (and after I took Story over Christian Yelich, which took some moxie). I’m on Joey Gallo (he can’t be at .185 in June again, right?), Adam Eaton (because I have so many sluggers, he helps the other end with average and runs), Randal Grichuk, Max Kepler, and Hunter Renfroe, whom I love this year for some reason. I also got Brinson because…well, because you said I should give it a shot. My infielders are nasty – Goldy, Schoop, Chapman, Bogaerts, Voit, eventually Gennett – and I grabbed Willson Contreras because I was scared to wait for a catcher. Then I grabbed Jung Ho Kang when I put Gennett on the DL, which is nice a) because he was free, and b) for the fantasy team name possibilities.

    Speaking of Contreras, am I the only one who likes him at his discounted price to possibly do what he didn’t do last year? I got him in the late 12th which was just below his preranking in ESPN. The Cubs are gonna need to score runs this year, right?

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