This piece, the second of a two-part micro-series, is not designed to be a draft guide. It is not even designed to help you with roster construction, though you can make one heck of a team from the list below. Obviously, you cannot draft only hitters through the first 15 rounds if you want to compete.
Mostly, this is a look at the players in each of the first 15 rounds of a 12-team draft and which hitters are “my guys” and why. It’s okay that they may not be the same players that you love and it’s okay to think I’m wrong. As a matter of fact, that’s part of the beauty of fantasy baseball drafts: plant your flag, hope you’re right and acknowledge where you were wrong later on.
This is also done independently of being locked into a draft spot which, in a real draft, you obviously are. This is for fun. Just have fun with it. And if you think my numbers or picks are crazy, do the exercise for yourself and share it with me! It’s a valuable process.
Round 1: Picks 1-12
Trea Turner (2B/SS)
Trea Turner is too smooth pic.twitter.com/NIJDthiPnn
— Baseball Quotes (@BaseballQuotes1) August 11, 2021
Trea Turner is very good at baseball. He is a five-tool contributor and gets a lot of steals, which are scarce and elusive later in drafts. In a standard roto league, he might be the 1.1, so, as with most picks in the first round, whether you can get him or not depends mostly on your draft order. In salary cap leagues, he’s worth a monster investment.
In points formats or other scenarios where steals may be devalued, Turner loses a little bit of shine but is still a solid first-rounder. In OBP leagues, the choice here might be Juan Soto instead and in ESPN daily leagues where Ohtani is one player who can pitch and hit for you, he is the 1.1.
Round 2: Picks 13-24
Rafael Devers (3B)
— SoxDingrs (@SoxDingrs) March 1, 2022
Third base dries up really quickly, especially in leagues that also have a CI spot to fill. If you didn’t get José Ramírez in the first round (either by choice or circumstance), snagging Devers on the turn is a really solid backup plan. He doesn’t give you the 5 category contribution as you’ll be lucky to get 5 steals, but he will approach 40 bombs and the 100/100 threshold in runs and RBI without killing your batting average.
If you missed out on steals in the first round and want to solidify them in the second, then Devers is not your guy, but if you can find a way to strategize around that, Rafael is the dude.
Round 3: Picks 25-36
Yordan Álvarez (OF)
Goodness… Yordan Álvarez is now 4-4 tonight 🔥🔥🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/xqsZ0D4hlH
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) October 23, 2021
Huge disclaimer: I am a die-hard, head-over-heels Yordan Álvarez fanboy. I am not concerned about his ankles. I am only concerned about the well-being of the baseballs he will launch into oblivion in 2022. He does not steal bases either and I don’t care. His hard contact rate (HH/PA%) of 35.8% was good for 10th best in MLB last year with a barrel% nearly twice the league average.
He murders baseballs and I want him on my team. He is also outfield-eligible in most formats so he won’t clog up your utility spot early either. You can have Álvarez and Ohtani on the same team in daily leagues. If you miss out on Devers in the second, Alvarez in the third looks mighty tasty.
Round 4: Picks 37-48
Matt Olson (1B)
Death, taxes, and Matt Olson homers pic.twitter.com/ZWYs6vewks
— Oakland A's (@Athletics) August 19, 2021
There is a reason I started this piece with Trea Turner; Matt Olson is the third player in a row who will net you under five steals. In fact, Devers, Álvarez, and Olson could easily steal less than 10 bags combined. Again, I don’t care. What I’m about to say is all true about Matt even if he remains in Oakland. It only gets significantly better if he is, as is rumored, traded out of Oakland. Matt Olson in Yankee Stadium hurts my soul as a Red Sox fan, but give me tremendous delight as one who rosters Matt Olson in TGFBI.
His barrel% in 2021 was 12.7%, well above the league average of just under 8%. He will chase 40 dongs in 2022, and if he is hitting a more homer-friendly ballpark on the regular, it would not be shocking if he was in the conversation for 50 with a full 162 games.
Round 5: Picks 49-60
Wander Franco (SS)
Look at Wander Franco recognize spin, stop all his momentum, wait, and drive that curveball the other way. Unreal. pic.twitter.com/iVa6k5XbGU
— Ben Porter (@Ben13Porter) October 8, 2021
I know, I know. But, c’mon. It’s WANDER. Maybe this is more the bug that I have always had for wanting to have the shiny new toy, but if he delivers even 80% of the projection, I think it’s worth taking the chance that he might even exceed it in a few places. Here are some plate discipline stats that are absolutely incredible for such a young player: a swinging-strike rate 4% lower than the league average, a K% 10% lower than league average, and a 73% contact rate on pitches outside of the strike zone.
That’s insane. I want him on my team, both in real life and in fantasy.
Round 6: Picks 61-72
Nolan Arenado (3B)
1️⃣0️⃣0️⃣ RBI and counting for Nolan Arenado! pic.twitter.com/5MmZq3PxCZ
— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) September 20, 2021
Nolan Arenado went from one of the best places to hit in the major leagues to one of the toughest. His hard-hit numbers were on par with his 2019 season in Colorado and he put up 35 bombs. His days of hitting over .300 may be behind him, especially as Coors Field is a greater positive impact on that than it does dingers, but while he hit .255 last year, his expected average was .281.
The projections seem to be a little bearish, and another of experience for the soon-to-be 31-year-old likely means his best days are behind him, but he’s not old and, as a third baseman, he may need to be the backup plan if you don’t get Devers or José Ramírez early. If you take him for your CI spot, you also take him away from somebody else’s team as their primary third base option.
Round 7: Picks 73-84
Jazz Chisholm, Jr. (2B/SS)
JAZZ CHISHOLM EUROSTEPPED ACROSS HOMEPLATE AFTER HOMERING 🔥🔥🔥
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) April 15, 2021
2021 was a bit of a tale of two stories for Jazz: the first half and the second half. He posted a .264 average with 11 bombs and 35 RBI through the first part of the season. In the latter half, that dipped to .228 with 7 homers and just 18 RBI. He will need to respond, deploying counter-measures to the adjustments that opposing pitchers made, but that feels like a more likely outcome than the 24-year-old having peaked already.
The obvious benefit of snagging him here is the steals upside. He stole 23 bags last year and is projected to repeat that performance. Anybody giving you 20+ steals in a roto or categories league is worth taking the chance, and in the 7th round, I’d rather take Jazz than be grasping at Myles Straw later.
Round 8: Picks 85-96
Bryan Reynolds (OF)
Bryan Reynolds makes it a dozen! 😱 pic.twitter.com/tjs5YvHo1b
— MLB (@MLB) August 14, 2021
Bryan Reynolds had the most under-the-radar amazing year in 2021. He seems to be a darling of the draft season in 2022, but there was not nearly enough respect on his name last year as he was He was 20th in the league in runs, 20th in average, and 10th in on-base percentage. His K% was better than league average and his walk rate lower. He dropped 24 dongs and, for good measure, 5 bags.
He had a wRC+ of 142 which put him tied for 10th best in MLB with… Trea Turner. I’m ecstatic to get him here.
Round 9: Picks 97-108
Jesse Winker (OF)
— MLB (@MLB) June 6, 2021
Here’s another guy for whom, I feel the need to report, I may have some serious, blinding love. I’ve been drafting Winker for a few seasons, hopeful that each would bring his breakout. Last year, I was finally rewarded in full. You should check out his Pitcher List player page; it’s all red except for steals. You aren’t drafting Jesse Winker for steals, obviously.
My favorite part of his profile is how hard he hits the ball. In the past two seasons, he has had barrel rates of 12.6% and 11% and last year had a hard contact rate of 33.5%. He does this while having just a 15.5 K% which helped him achieve the 6th best OBP in the big leagues last year.
Round 10: Picks 109-120
Kyle Schwarber (OF)
Kyle Schwarber absolutely 𝒅𝒆𝒔𝒕𝒓𝒐𝒚𝒆𝒅 that baseball. pic.twitter.com/9Ir0sruWop
— Red Sox (@RedSox) September 22, 2021
Speaking of players who hit the ball hard, enter Kyle Schwarber. As of this moment, we don’t know exactly where he will land, but wherever it is, he will murder baseballs. He is a gamer while not taking himself too seriously and seems to have the constitution to succeed anywhere he may go. He strikes out a lot, but also walks a ton too. His .372 OBP, .554 slugging, and .406 xwOBA were good for 25th, 17th, and 20th in MLB, respectively.
He also hit 32 long-balls, a top 30 finish. He’s easy to root for, he’s good, and those things in combination make him a lot of fun to have on your fantasy roster.
Round 11: Picks 121-132
Trent Grisham (OF)
Trent Grisham is elite.
— San Diego Padres (@Padres) May 22, 2021
Trent did not have the year that a lot of people were hoping for in 2021. That is exactly why I love him here. In the 11th round of a 12-teamer, you can take the chance on the upside people were drafting with excitement ahead of the 2021 season. He offers some all-important steals and has far more potential than he showed last year.
There is a good chance that he suffered from some bad luck with his power last year as well. In 2020 his barrel% was 10.5% while in 2021 it dipped to 5.2% and, in a similar fashion, his HR/FB% dropped 7%. However, his hard-contact rate (HH%/PA) stayed just about the same. It’s not crazy to think that if the hard contact stays consistent, he will get more barrels and find more of his fly balls leaving the yard.
Round 12: Picks 133-144
Jarred Kelenic (OF)
Congratulations to Jarred Kelenic on his first big league base hit and FIRST BIG LEAGUE HOMER pic.twitter.com/i6LPQM2x7E
— Joe Doyle (@JoeDoyleMiLB) May 15, 2021
It wouldn’t do anybody much good to quote Kelenic’s bad numbers from last year. While is MLB wRC+ was just 73 in 2021, at AAA, it was 143. That’s not the 192 he put up in rookie ball with the Mets organization, but it is indicative of his talent. This is a high upside pick with a risky floor, but we have seen plenty of supposed-to-be stars falter in their first steps as Major Leaguers and then emerge from their cocoons as the butterflies they were always expected to be. I’m taking the chance on the upshot.
Round 13: Picks 145-156
Brendan Rodgers (2B/SS)
Brendan Rodgers flies out to *left fielder* Ashton Goudeau in the 'pen 😏💣 pic.twitter.com/elo0PSp0ZZ
— Colorado Rockies (@Rockies) September 18, 2021
Here’s a fun trivia question for you: In 2020, appearing in 7 games and totaling 21 plate appearances, what was Brendan Rodgers‘ wRC+ with the Colorado Rockies? Spoiler alert, you can probably already see the answer. It was -59. That’s bad news.
Obviously, in 2021, there was some very good news that followed. He was top-50 in batting average and top 100 in HH%/PA. He also put up 15 home runs and 51 RBI in just 102 games. He’s 24. He plays in Colorado. He should get regular at-bats. Those are all things on which you can and should bet.
Round 14: Picks 157-168
Alex Verdugo (OF)
— Tyler Milliken ⚾️ (@tylermilliken_) February 28, 2022
Alex Verdugo had a quiet, steady season in 2021. He had a relatively low K%, hit 13 dingers, and drove in 63 runs. Nothing overwhelming there, but at this stage of a draft, with the other outfield options that may be available to you, you’ll take that.
Here’s the upside: he had a hard contact rate of 32.8%, good for top-40 in baseball, and .303 xAVG. We don’t get credit for expected stats in fantasy, but it does mean that there is more juice in the orange with Verdugo. He will turn 26 in a few months, heading toward that sweet spot of potential, and may break out even further this coming year. I’m willing to buy in on that, especially with a pretty reliable floor.
Round 15: Picks 169-180
Adley Rutschman (C)
Adley Rutschman, baseball player pic.twitter.com/cb1coy7PAu
— Céspedes Family BBQ (@CespedesBBQ) July 11, 2021
It didn’t feel right to end the piece without taking a catcher, and the way they are flying off the board this year, especially in 2-catcher formats, the big dogs will not be hanging around in the 15th. Adley may be and with a projection of over 400 plate appearances in 2022, what a fun and exciting player to roster! As with any hyped rookie, his floor could be anything, but the upside is enormous, especially at the position. In a 12-team league, especially with single catcher leagues, there will be options on waivers if he doesn’t work out. I want to be the one with the first crack at having a special player. This may be my Achilles heel, but I have come to terms with that.
There you have it! The ADP you are seeing may not line up here; it fluctuates all the time. With news of the season being back on track, it will likely fluctuate even more. The exercise is valuable and I encourage you to do it for yourself with your own numbers, data, and players.
Photos by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire, Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire, and Patrick Tomasso/Unsplash | Adapted by Ethan Kaplan (@DJFreddie10 on Twitter and @EthanMKaplanImages on Instagram)