Nick Pollack’s 2020 Fantasy Baseball Draft Outline – Who To Target And When

Nick Pollack details his plan for drafts in 2020, 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 2020, 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 Luis Castillo 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 highlighted my favorite players for each position in yellow inside their tables, keep in mind this isn’t included in the master chart at the bottom as it would complicate things too much

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 trend you’ll see is that I elect to wait on grabbing starting pitchers. This isn’t for everyone and I understand if you want to grab a starter in the third or fourth round. In that case, grab Shane Bieber, Patrick Corbin, or Clayton Kershaw. It’s all about floors.
    • I’m a huge believer that you should be drafting with the mindset of four to five SPs that you trust through the year, then your final four SPs are options that you’re okay dropping if they don’t pan out.
    • You need to be active on the waiver wire in April. There are so many stud pitchers that show up out of nowhere (last year examples: Giolito, Lynn, Soroka, Odorizzi, Minor, etc.), and you have to put yourself in a position to get them.
  • You need to have a 2B and 1B plan. SS, C, 3B, OF all have later options that can work, while you can find yourself overpaying if you don’t lock in a 2B or 1B you like in the first 12 rounds.
  • Outfield, 3B, and 1B value lies in rounds 6-11.
  • 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. Check out Alex Fast’s We’ve Drafted Saves Wrong Again and you’ll understand.
  • 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 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 / Utility

 

This year, there’s a ton of talent in the early-mid tiers and then not a whole lot to go for late. Freddie Freeman is a safe option in the middle of the second round (though I find myself chasing other bats) and options like Jose Abreu, DJ LeMahieuand Matt Olson are all well placed in the fifth through seventh rounds, allowing you to snag them easily. If you get side-tracked, Carlos Santana isn’t getting enough love for his change of approach last year, Yuli Gurriel‘s average and Run/RBI production should still be stellar, and why not take a chance on Danny Santana repeating last season (he’s in a lot of these).

At the end of the draft, consider one of Christian Walker, Luke Voit, Mark Canha, or CJ CronAll of these could be mashers in the middle of lineups for the cost of very little, and if it doesn’t work you’ll feel just fine throwing them back to the wire.

Also, I elected to throw the three UTIL bats in here as well, Yordan Alvarez, Nelson Cruzand Shohei OhtaniI’m a fan of the latter two at their cost, but if Yordan is snatched before the fourth as I’ve seen often, it’s just not the right play to bet on too small of a sample.

 

First Basemen Targets And Rounds

 


Second Basemen

 

You need to have a plan for second base. I’m very even between Jose Altuve and Gleyber Torreswhich has me often getting one of them at the 2/3 turn or in the third if I’m drafting from the first half of the draft. Ketel Marte is also a crush of mine, especially with some drafts leaving him on the board in the first half of the fourth. I suggest aiming for these given your draft spot.

Midway, you can get some excellent value for Jonathan Villar if you were unable to snag steals in the first or second rounds, or aim to slot one of DJ LeMahieu, Max Muncyor Mike Moustakas in the early-mid rounds. Eduardo Escobar is the last of the solid floor options past the 100th pick, though Cavan Biggio makes for a fun upside play as well.

Late in the draft, there’s stolen base value to be had with Scott Kingery and Kolten Wongwhile Brandon Lowe and Nick Solak can well outperform their draft stocks.

 

Second Basemen Targets And Rounds

 

Third Basemen

 

There are some elite options at the top (people are underrating Nolan Arenado!) and feel free to grab their fantastic floors at the end of the first and early second—Alex Bregman, Jose Ramirezand Anthony Rendon round out the crew. Rafael Devers should get a look at the back end of the second and early third round as well, but the fourth is likely to skip out on third base all together.

The fifth begins the transition to the early-mid rounds and where it gets fun. I’m okay jumping in for Kris Bryant in the fifth, though the top value comes from DJ LeMahieu, Matt Chapman, Eugenio Suarez, Josh Donaldson, Max Muncy, Jeff McNeil, and Mike Moustakasall falling within four rounds of each other. Consider dipping your hand in here even if you already own one 3B, as the UTIL spot can certainly benefit from one of these producers at a discounted cost.

There are some other decent deeper options as well, from Miguel Sano and Justin Turner turning heads well past pick 100, JD Davis and Gio Urshela in excellent positions to return value, and Brian Anderson batting third for the Marlins may very well be a quiet steal at the end of drafts.

 

Third Basemen Targets And Rounds

 

Shortstops

 

I’d feel happy drafting out of the 6/7/8 spot this year as I’d be sure to get one of Trevor Story, Francisco Lindor or Trea TurnerI do favor the former two more than Turner, though grabbing a secure SB floor early opens up doors for your draft quickly. I’m not targeting Bregman directly, but I’m fine with him at the 1/2 turn or early in the second round if drafters are worried about a massive Astro regression. Xander Bogaerts is finding his way on many of my teams, as I think he can sustain plenty of his growth last year despite a rolled ankle a few weeks ago. Javier Baez can be considered if you need a few more steals as well, though Jonathan Villar and Adalberto Mondesi could be the better play if you’ve sold out for power in the early rounds.

Keep Manny Machado in mind for a decent upside play as he could rebound for the Padres, though Bo Bichette and Marcus Semien may be all-around better options in the sixth or seventh rounds. Tim Anderson could repeat last year for some sneaky value in the 10th, while Jorge Polanco and Amed Rosario are good backup options if you’ve had to look elsewhere. Lastly, Didi Gregorius, Carter Kieboomand Jean Segura are deep plays that could easily give back more than their current prices late in drafts.

 

Shortstop Targets And Rounds

 

Outfielders

 

With outfielders, you’re likely to grab more than the allotted three and use one for a UTIL spot and a bench flier late in the draft. Go ahead and take two in the first four rounds or so based on what falls to you, especially if it’s Ketel Marte and Austin Meadows, then make sure to take a look when you’re going for pitchers in the 5-10th round range as there are plenty of valuable outfielders going way past their worth here, including Nicholas Castellanos, Ramon Laureano, Marcell Ozunaand Eloy Jimenez.

In the middle rounds, bats like Kyle Schwarber, Max Kepler, and Franmil Reyes can be huge value plays if you need HRs, while the late rounds have a ton of intriguing options. Pay attention to the spring battle between Dylan Carlson and Tyler O’Neil, as the winner will start for the Cardinals and could make a sizeable impact. Trent Grisham, Mike Tacuhman, Brian Andersonand Mike Yastrezmski could all get volume and perform well across the board, too, making for intriguing fliers to consider deep in the draft.

 

Outfielder Targets And Rounds

 

Catchers

 

If there is a lull in the fifth or sixth rounds, I could see myself jumping on JT Realmuto and calling it a day on a catcher. Gary Sanchez‘s back troubles have me passing on Catcher until the 10th or so for Mitch Garverwho should be a solid bat inside an incredible lineup. If I’m missing on either of these, there’s little incentive to chase anything until the final rounds of the draft as the Top 12/15 catchers are all good enough for your roster. While I like Carson Kelly, Will Smithand Sean Murphy, there should be a backstop you like by the end of the draft.

 

Catcher Targets And Rounds

 

Starting Pitchers

 

Okay, I don’t like taking aces early. It’s weird every year, seeing incredible and fun pitchers get snatched up and performing on someone else’s team, but hear me out: If you execute a draft with the intention of streaming during the season for talent (All of Lynn, Giolito, Soroka, Odorizzi, Minor, Woodruff, etc. were drafted past pick #300 last year, aka you picked them up in April), you’ll get so much more value on the hitting front. We’re aiming for four to five starters that we trust and beginning the streaming process with arms we can figure out if we like or not soon in April so we can move on quickly if it doesn’t pan out.

That doesn’t mean I’m 100% waiting on pitching. I can see scenarios where I grab Shane Bieber in the third, or lean for Patrick Corbin or Clayton Kershaw near the fourth/fifth turn. However, in most drafts I’m taking Yu Darvish as my ace, with Corey Kluber as the backup/hopeful No. 2.

The goal is to leave the 11th/12th with five starters you trust. If you’re lucky to go Yu Darvish/Corey Kluber/Zac Gallen/Sonny Gray/Madison Bumgarner, fantastic! Don’t overreach for Maeda or Boyd then. I would suggest taking a pause at one point for your 3B or OF solutions, and it’s fine if David Price/Kenta Maeda/Matthew Boyd make up two of those five.

There are a ton of high ceiling arms to chase as well, just make sure you give yourself an opportunity for Wins and stay away from every injury-prone arm, like Andrew Heaney, Luke Weaver, Sean Manaea, and Joe MusgroveFor Wins, consider Jose Urquidy and Mike Foltynewiczwhile make sure there’s room to take a shot on Jordan Montgomery and Alex WoodTheir increased velocities could really pay dividends.

It’s easy to take too many starters in drafts, but as long as you pad your offense early, feel free to fill up your bench with starters. You can always drop fast if they don’t pan out, but if they hit, you’ll have a deep rotation with an amazing offense.

 

Starting Pitcher Targets And Rounds

 

Relief Pitchers

 

I’m not too keen on relievers, but after I snag a good selection of starters past the 10th round, I’d be glad to grab a strong closer if one is available. Liam Hendriks, Brad Handand Taylor Rogers could be there and I’m all for grabbing one then. Throw Ken Giles in there as well, though I like him another round less.

Around the 15th, there are some other closers that should get the job done. There are many to consider here and I’ll be looking at Hector Neris, Brandon Workman, Alex Colome, Sean Doolittleand Mark MelanconNothing exciting, but it’s worth it not to pay for saves.

As we begin to hit the late rounds, there are often a decent selection of legit closers left, including Hansel Robles, Keone Kelaand Ian KennedyWhile I like Giovanny Gallegos here as well, keep an eye on Ryan Helsley getting the job, while Brandon Kintzler and Wade Davis could run away with the closer jobs as well for their respective teams.

 

Relief Pitcher Targets And Rounds

 

All Targets Round By Round

 

I made this handy chart for you to reference through your draft:

Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Michael Packard (@designsbypack on Twitter and Instagram)

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 Ben says:

    Where is Albies on the 2B list?

  • Avatar Dave says:

    Really great stuff Nick – thanks for your insight! At first I thought you were listing all usable players and where to target them. I thought “where is Moncada; he must have overlooked him.” But, then I realized this is only listing guys you think might be worth targeting. So, I’m guessing you see Moncada as a serious regression candidate and going too high to consider drafting. Is that correct?

    Thanks.

    • Nick Pollack Nick Pollack says:

      Hey Dave, I’m assuming you’re the same dave from Reddit but if not, here’s how I feel about Moncada:

      I’m not in at his current ~6th round price. Obviously we all see a regression coming with his .400+ BABIP and 27%+ strikeout rate last year as he held a near 14% SwStr rate, and I worry if it’ll be too far. O-Swing went up to a career high 32.7% as well.

      Essentially, I see less power from Moncada, with the ~12 SBs as the real appeal. I’d prefer to wait for the other 3Bs instead.

  • Avatar Upton Funk says:

    This is ridiculously minor, but . . . from a ux standpoint, any chance you can change either the blue text color or alter the green highlights in the Targets/Rounds tables? It’s really hard to read the people you’ve highlighted in green. Thanks!

    • Avatar Ole Cars O Cars Car says:

      Seconded. I was worried it was just because I am red/green colorblind, but am glad that normal sighted people are struggling with it as well.

    • Nick Pollack Nick Pollack says:

      Great call, I completely forgot about the linking while making these tables that turn the player names blue.

      I’ve changed it to yellow/orange. Hopefully that’s better!

  • Avatar Bob says:

    This is an awesome list. I will be using it in all my snakes. One question, I have the sixth pick in a standard 12 team redraft. If Betts falls to me, would you take him over Story or Lindor?

  • Avatar Ben B says:

    This is fantastic, especially the chart at the end! You highlighted a lot of the guys I’ve been ending up with in my mocks. One minor note: in the catcher section, the table heading is mislabeled.

  • Avatar MW says:

    Where is Guerrero Jr on the 3B list

    • Nick Pollack Nick Pollack says:

      I find myself much preferring the value of Chapman/Donaldson over jumping a round or two early to snag Vlad Jr.

  • Avatar Kelcy says:

    Whit Merrifield, where have you gone?

  • Avatar Kevin says:

    Not to pile on, but Keston Hiura?

  • It looks like fantasy pros uses Fantrax, NFC, ESPN, Yahoo and RTsports. You mentioned NFBC and CBS. Is it just different now or am I missing something?

  • I was looking at this and with keepers and a 14 team league size, I see about a 3+ round inflation for the first 15 rounds (things will stabilize after that point). As you pointed out, this is 12×12 but things like closers and starting pitching are going to be a lot of fun.

  • Avatar SwayzeExpress says:

    No Rhys Hoskins?

  • Avatar Jacob says:

    I think this is a great article

  • Avatar Tim says:

    Love this approach for 2020. I find myself aligning with it a lot more than the “starting pitcher heavy” strategies I’ve seen more of this year.

    I’m interested in your take on Salvador Perez since I don’t see him included in the list of catchers. I just picked him in the middle of the 11th of a two catcher league and I think that’s a pretty decent value for him. All of his projections say he’ll play 100+ games and hit 20+ homers, but I’m a bit worried he will have a Corey Seager-like regression this year recovering from TJ surgery. What say you?

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