UPDATED 2020 Fantasy Baseball Draft Outline – Who To Target And When

Nick Pollack details his round-by-round plan for fantasy drafts.

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.

UPDATE: I originally put this article out in March and not a massive amount has changed then. This piece has been updated to reflect the 60-game season with a new chart at the end of all my targets.

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 seventh 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
  • If a player hasn’t joined camp yet, I’m not interested in drafting them. Save for Charlie Blackmon, Joey Galloand Juan SotoI’m also hesitant to draft players who have been through the ringer with COVID-19 already. It’s a terrible situation and I hope they take all the time they need to fully recover.

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 Mike Clevinger, Shane Bieber, Stephen Strasburg, or Clayton Kershaw. It’s all about floors and volume out of the gate.
    • 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.
    • Go for volume out of the gate in the short season. I avoided Mike Foltynewicz and Walker Buehler for example as it’s become apparent that they will not be allowed to go 100% in their first start. Maximize your ceiling!
  • 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 sadly a victim of COVID-19 and I would avoid him entirely as he’s going through a tough time. (We’re all thinking of you Freddie!). Anthony Rizzo has also brought some concerns as his back is already bothering him, forcing an early MRI. Missing time in this shortened season is detrimental and I’ve been sliding Rizzo down my list as a result.

I’ve become more favorable to Pete Alonso who has a chance to sway your teams’ HR numbers in a heartbeat in a shortened season. I’ve seen him go in the second, but if he’s there at the end of the 3rd, I’d aim for him and be thrilled to have 1B covered.

Options like Jose Abreu, DJ LeMahieu (he’s returning to camp this week!), and 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 and why not take a chance on Danny Santana repeating last season (he’s in a lot of these).

I’m becoming more infatuated with Luke Voit and Edwin Encarnacion as well. They’ll both situated in the middle of two potent lineups and can be a sizeable boost to counting stats in a season where there is no time to lag.

If you’re hurting for average and still without a firstbaseman, Howie Kendrick should heavily be considered starting in the 18th round. You can likely wait later, but hey, it’s the 18th and you need a first baseman.

At the end of the draft, consider one of Mark Canha, or one of the Cron brothers of Kevin Cron 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, Nelson Cruz and Shohei OhtaniI’m a fan of the latter two at their cost and even in the short season, consider Ohtani as one of the best platoon options out there.

 

First Basemen & DH 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 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 I’d rather go for Eugenio Suarez in the same round or even in the sixth, while the top value comes from DJ LeMahieu, Matt Chapman, 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 Justin Turner turning heads well past pick 100 to JD Davis in an excellent position to return value. There’s another Danny Santana spot here, and for some late value consider Miguel Andujar as he likely gets regular playing time for the Yankees and Brian Anderson who may very well be a quiet steal at the end of drafts as he bats third for the Marlins.

 

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, though I could see myself chasing Turner before the others in Roto leagues. 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 a round earlier and Marcus Semien in the seventh may be all-around better options. 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.

 

Shortstops 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. It pains me to sit out on Mike Trout, but the high likelihood of missing significant time forces us to look elsewhere – I’m favoring Christian Yelich as he’s been the most productive bat on a per game basis. Go ahead and take two in the first four rounds or so based on what falls to you, especially if it’s Ketel Marte (Sadly, Austin Meadows hasn’t reported to camp yet) 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 Jorge Soler, 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. If you’re willing to hold a stash for the first week, Dylan Carlson should be a valuable bat when he gets through the service time delay. Late in drafts, I find myself gravitating toward Nick Senzel and Adam Eaton if I need average, runs, and SBs, Alex Verdugo and Brian Anderson for all-around options and Justin Upton or Randall Grichuk if I need more power.

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 of the spring are behind him and if he’s there past the seventh, definitely consider spending the draft capital. Mitch Garver should be another great pairing for a high-average squad who should be a solid bat inside an incredible lineup and can be grabbed as late as the 12th round. If I’m missing on any of these three, 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 Murphythere 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 Mike Clevinger or Shane Bieber in the third, Charlie Morton in the fourth or fifth, 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/Carlos Carrasco/Sonny Gray/Lance Lynn, fantastic! Don’t overreach for Kenta Maeda or Matthew Boyd then. I would suggest taking a pause at one point for your 3B or OF solutions, and it’s fine if Kenta Maeda/Matthew Boyd make up two of those five. I’ve gone after Frankie Montas, Madison Bumgarner, Trevor Bauer, and Zach Gallen in that first group as well. Zack Wheeler was, but sadly I have too many concerns about him missing time surrounding his child’s expected birth.

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, Mike Minor, and Joe Musgrove. I’d consider chasing Marcus Stroman to see if his new cutter is legit, AJ Puk if he lands well in Oakland, and Garrett Richards if he can get it together before he walks this winterwhile make sure there’s room to take a shot on Jordan Montgomery if his velocity is still up like it was in the springI have some reservations about Carlos Martinez as his role remains unclear, but if he doesn’t end up starting, he’s still a solid get as a closer around the 13th round, so hey, Win-Win.

In the last three rounds, keep in mind the starting pitchers who are getting a favorable start during their first turn of the rotation. These include Nathan Eovaldi and maybe even Martin Perez against the Orioles, Dakota Hudson against the Pirates, Griffin Canning could get the Mariners, Alex Wood will get the Giants, Pablo Lopez will face the Orioles, Josh Lindblom could get the Pirates if he’s the #4, AJ Puk would face the Rockies on the road (always a good thing), Jake Arrieta against the Marlins, Joey Lucchesi against the Giants in Oracle Park, and maybe Asher Wojciechowski against the Marlins.

You may also want to consider Nate Pearson who could take the #5 spot in Toronto with Chase Anderson on the IL. He’ll miss the first turn because of service time manipulation, but if you endure one week of a stash, he’s my favorite one to target.

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 Hand, Ken Giles, and Taylor Rogers could be there and I’m all for grabbing one then, but they’ve been pushed up in the shorter season so monitor the flow of the draft well. Throw Ken Giles in there as well given I expect the Jays to surprise us a bit with their young offense.

A quick note: I know many are believing they need to get a sturdy guy in this shorter season. I think you can still find good enough options while vulturing a save or two during the year will pay off way more than usual. (Fortunately, we’ll have a daily article helping you do just that!)

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 Brandon Workman, Alex Colome, Sean Doolittle, Hansel Robles, Zach Britton, and 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 Ian Kennedy. Brandon Kintzler and Wade Davis could run away with the closer jobs as well for their respective teams and they are worth a shot.

 

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. Worked with MSG, FanGraphs, CBS Sports, and Washington Post. Former pitching coach and Brandeis alum. Wants every pitcher to be dope.

  • Avatar Cooper says:

    Nick,
    Big fan of the list! Are the players listed on the cheat sheet guide listed in order of how you would draft them?
    Thanks!
    Cooper

  • Avatar Barry says:

    Hello Nick,

    Great content just like last year! I’m targeting Corbin or Morton as my SP1. The List has Morton ranked 7 and Corbin 11, however I don’t see Morton mentioned in the SP target list or in the All Targets by Round chart.

    Thanks in advance for your thoughts,

    Subscriber Barry

    • Nick Pollack Nick Pollack says:

      Hey Barry!

      Thanks for pointing this out! I meant to add Morton back into the fray and he slipped through the cracks. He’s been updated as a 4th/5th round target.

  • Avatar Matthew says:

    Where would you draft Ozzie Albies as second base? Didnt see him at all in your chart.

  • Avatar Aaron says:

    Where would you be looking to draft carlos correa if at all?

  • Avatar Big Joey says:

    You’re not a fan of Austin M(VP)eadows?

  • Avatar Andrew says:

    Thanks for putting this together. Very helpful. One question: where do you have Keston Hiura fitting into your second base rankings?

    • Nick Pollack Nick Pollack says:

      Thanks Andrew!

      I have Hiura right before Villar. I’d have targeted him for the fifth round, but I’ve seen him going in the fourth mostly.

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