With the start of the 2023 season less than 48 hours away, we're in the end game for Draft Prep season. Most leagues have already drafted, though Tuesday and Wednesday night will be two of the busiest draft days of the year, so plenty of you still need some help.
For my part, I have only one draft left Tuesday night, a salary cap keeper league where I'm heading into the draft with Ronald Acuna ($43), Wander Franco ($12), Corbin Burnes ($23) and Framber Valdez ($12) to start off with. It's a solid core, with my No. 1 overall player and No. 2 pitcher at a discount, especially when compared to how keeper leagues tend to lead to inflation at the high end. It's a pretty solid squad, though with it being a salary cap/auction draft, it's hard to know what the rest of my team will look like.
It'll have some of the following players on it, for sure, though which ones is harder to say. I went through NFBC ADP from the last big draft weekend of the year to get a sense for the latest price changes, and then I grouped every player in chunks of 12 to figure out what my favorite picks in every round would be. This isn't necessarily an ideal team -- I didn't pay much attention to roster limits or category needs here -- but it's pretty close. You could say these are my guys for the year -- the players I'm likely to have on most of my teams, if all goes according to plan.
Favorite Round 1 pick
Ronald Acuna Jr. (ADP: 2.06) – Acuna is my No. 1 overall player, so who else could it be? If he's on the board wherever I'm picking, I'm taking Acuna. I know Aaron Judge's 2022 season was better than anything we've seen from Acuna, but I am expecting Acuna to take a step forward after struggling a bit as a hitter coming back from his torn ACL last season. He might be the best bet for 40 steals among the first-rounders, and is one of maybe two or three players with 40-40 upside. I can't pass that up.
Favorite Round 2 pick
Fernando Tatis (ADP: 17.1) – And here's one of the other few players with realistic 40-40 upside. Tatis is probably not quite as safe a bet for steals as Acuna, in no small part because he is suspended for the first 20 games of the season. He's also coming back from missing the entire 2022 season after having wrist and shoulder surgeries, so there's plenty of risk here. On the other hand, we saw him put up a .282-99-42-97-25 season in just 130 games in 2021. He might just be the No. 1 player in Fantasy from the moment he's cleared to play.
Favorite Round 3 Pick
Jazz Chisholm (ADP: 33.97) – On a per-game basis, Chisholm might have been the second-best player in Fantasy in 2022, with a 150-game pace of .254-99-35-113-30. The problem – and the reason he's a third-rounder – is because he played just 60 games due primarily to a back injury. Injuries have been a real problem for Chisholm, but if he stays healthy, he has tons of upside. You can't take that many risks in the early rounds, but Chisholm might be one of them.
Favorite Round 4 pick
Max Scherzer (ADP: 36.43) – Scherzer doesn't seem like quite the safe bet for innings that he once was, having tossed just 145.1 of them last year. But his injuries have generally been of the minor, nagging variety, and they haven't impacted his skill set yet – he still had a 2.29 ERA and 0.91 WHIP last season, so I'm very confident he's going to remain very good in his age-38 season. And if he does manage to stay healthy, he's more than capable of throwing close to 200 innings.
Favorite Round 5 pick
Kevin Gausman (ADP: 54.59) – Results on batted balls aren't entirely random, as we know, but it's still hard to give Gausman too much grief for what happened last season. His .363 BABIP was't just nearly 100 points higher than 2021's mark; it was 33 points higher than any other starter in baseball. Despite that, he had a solid 3.35 ERA, but with a 2.38 FIP that hints at the upside here. He's not likely to give you results quite that good, necessarily, but he'll rack up a bunch of strikeouts with pretty good ratios and a true top-five upside outcome.
Favorite Round 6 pick
Salvador Perez (ADP: 64.39) – You should be looking for difference makers when you can find them, and even at a time when the catcher position seems deeper than it has in years, Perez might still be the biggest potential difference maker at the position. He's a legitimate 30-homer threat who might just drive in 100 runs, and at a position where even the best players might only give you 80 or so RBI. Perez probably won't lead the majors in homers again, and he might not give you a great batting average, but the power production makes him a one-of-one option at catcher.
Favorite Round 7 pick
Joe Musgrove (ADP: 88.74) – Musgrove's ADP has pretty much recovered from the initial fall after his toe injury, which makes sense, because he's now only expected to miss one or two turns in the rotation. I preferred when he was going outside of the top 100, sure, but I still like him here – you're going to get around 30 starts of an ERA near 3.00 and close to 200 strikeouts out of him. He's a great second starter, and an incredible third one at this price.
Favorite Round 8 pick
Vinny Pasquantino (ADP: 90.76) – Pasquantino is everyone's favorite breakout first baseman, but his price has remained surprisingly reasonable throughout draft season. That's probably because he doesn't steal bases and there are questions about how much power and batting average he'll provide. I'm confident he'll be a plus hitter in both regards thanks to his low strikeout rate and high pull rate, and he's one of the best first basemen if you want to wait a little bit at the position.
Favorite Round 9 pick
Alejandro Kirk (ADP: 106.67) – Truth be told, I don't really love the players being drafted in this range, so Kirk is kind of a default pick here. That being said, I think he's actually a pretty great pick at this value in two-catcher leagues. Your typical catcher is probably going to hurt you in batting average, but Kirk can be a bulwark against that. His .285 average was backed up by a .278 xBA last season, and he figures to be among the leaders in plate appearances at the position again, meaning that average is even more helpful. Kirk probably won't be a difference maker in RBI or R, and I know there are some concerns about his second-half swoon last season, but I think Kirk's full-season numbers more or less represent his true talent level. He's a very helpful option at a point in the draft when I don't necessarily love the alternatives.
Favorite Round 10 pick
Jordan Walker (ADP: 118.57) – This one is kind of a lie, because there's no way Walker is going to last this long in any drafts over the next few days. He went 101st overall in a Roto mock we did last week, and I wouldn't be surprised if he was a top-75 pick over the past few days. Walker was on my "I Have to Draft Them At Least Once" team back in early March, and I'm glad I made a point of adding him to a few teams back then before his cost got too prohibitive.
Favorite Round 11 pick
Christian Walker (ADP: 123.74) – Walker kind of exists to make what I said about Pasquantino feel at least a little less true. Pasquantino is the best first baseman if you want to wait except that Walker is probably an even better option. Walker hit .242 with 36 homers last season, and might have even been a bit unlucky – his .346 wOBA trailed his .359 expected mark. He could be a legitimate 35-homer guy who doesn't hurt you in batting average if he can sustain his sub-20% strikeout rate.
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Favorite Round 12 pick
Nico Hoerner (ADP: 143.57) – Hoerner makes a ton of contact, and while he's mostly a slap hitter, there's enough punch here to make the profile play up – he had a max exit velocity of 109.7 mph last season, an above-average mark and enough to make me think his 10 homers last season weren't really a fluke. If Hoerner hits 10 homers with a .280 average again, he's probably going to dramatically outperform this cost, since there's legitimate 30-steal potential here.
Favorite Round 13 pick
Reid Detmers (ADP: 157.42) – Detmers' price has risen, but it remains more than reasonable given that he had a 3.04 ERA and 26% strikeout rate from July 8 on last season and then got a velocity spike this spring. He might be able to top that second-half run now that he's consistently throwing in the mid-to-high 90s.
Favorite Round 14 pick
Lars Nootbaar (ADP: 165.53) – At the start of the spring, it seemed like there might be room for just one of Jordan Walker and Nootbaar, but the Cardinals are going into the season with both on the roster, with Dylan Carlson set for a late-inning defensive replacement and utility outfielder role. That means Nootbaar should get the opportunity to play pretty much everyday, and we're hoping he can build off what he did last season. Even if he doesn't, it's not unreasonable to think he could give you 25 homers and 10 steals with a good OBP, and if he gets a bit better luck on batted balls after last year's .248 BABIP, there's big upside here.
Favorite Round 15 pick
Riley Greene (ADP: 183.44) – Greene is one of my favorite breakout picks, and everything we've heard out of spring training has been pretty promising. He's making a bunch of hard contact and hitting the ball in the air more consistently than he did as a rookie. I'd be in on Greene even without the promising spring, but it certainly makes me feel more confident in it.
Favorite Round 16 pick
Jose Altuve (ADP: 187.43) – When Altuve went down with his thumb injury, I expected a late-May timetable and dropped him to around 100th overall in my rankings. Apparently everyone else dropped him quite a bit more. Obviously it's less than ideal for a player to miss two months of the season, but Altuve is a legitimate difference maker at a position that is pretty shallow on those. It is worth noting here that NFBC tends to be 15-team leagues with no IL spots, so it's harder to get away with drafting a guy you know will miss time, which is why Bryce Harper also tends to get drafted around here in these leagues. I'd take either of them 50-60 spots earlier.
Favorite Round 17 pick
Ezequiel Tovar (ADP: 205.15) – Tovar isn't on the same level as Walker of Volpe as prospects, but he's a consensus top-25 guy coming off a .319/.387/.540 line as a 20-year-old mostly in Double-A, with 13 homers and 17 steals in just 71 games. That production compares very favorably to what Walker and Volpe did, and Tovar has the advantage of playing half his games in Coors Field. The Rockies have earned a reputation for not developing or managing young players well, and I think that stink is holding Tovar back in a lot of folks' minds. But it wouldn't surprise me one bit if Tovar ended up being one of the best rookies for Fantasy.
Favorite Round 18 pick
Edward Cabrera (ADP: 210.08) – Cabrera has limitations, from injury concerns in his past to command and control issues in his present. But man, there's a lot to like about his profile, as a big righty with high-90s heat and a changeup and slider that could both be plus weapons. If Cabrera can keep the walks to under 4.0 per nine, he could be excellent for 150 or so innings. It might all come down to fastball command, but if he can figure that out – like teammate Sandy Alcantara did – he could be great.
Favorite Round 19 pick
Jameson Taillon (ADP: 232.84) – Taillon is an established player in his 30s, so not exactly someone you'd expect to be a breakout candidate. But I'm a fan of his this season, knowing he spent his offseason working to add a sweeper in the hopes of giving him a go-to out pitch. Taillon already does a good job limiting walks and hard contact in the air, but his strikeout rates have been pedestrian at best. If a sweeper can help him push his strikeout rate to the 24-25% range (he was at 20.7% in 2022 but 23.2% in 2021), he could become a very intriguing option, especially with what should be a good Cubs infield defense behind him.
Favorite Round 20 pick
Trevor Rogers (ADP: 237.61) – I'm a believer in the Marlins' ability to maximize their pitchers, though that obviously backfired with Rogers last year. Rogers' 5.00 ERA in the spring isn't great, but it's mostly because of one bad outing where he gave up eight runs in four innings – he was pretty excellent otherwise. I understand Rogers has to earn the benefit of the doubt again after how bad things were last season, but he's talked about rediscovering the feel for his changeup and slider while adding a sinker to complement his four-seam fastball, and I'm willing to give him another chance when the price is this cheap.
Favorite Round 21 pick
Jesse Winker (ADP: 247.85) – Between a massive downgrade in home park and back and knee injuries that ultimately required surgery, I think Winker has a pretty good excuse for why his 2022 was such a disaster. I'm willing to give him a bit of a mulligan for it, and I'm hoping the move to American Family Field will help – Milwaukee's home field has the fifth-best park factor for left-handed power, per Statcast park factors. It should be a much more inviting environment than Seattle, and hopefully a healthy Winker can get back to raking.
Favorite Round 22 pick
Jake Fraley (ADP: 258.66) – We've never seen him do it for a full season, but Fraley has shown very intriguing skills over the past two seasons, hitting .235/.348/.419 with 21 homers and 14 steals in just 146 games. Playing half his games at Great American Ballpark will help Fraley maximize his power, and a 20-15 outcome is not out of the realm of possibility. The question is whether he can hit for enough batting average to be worth having in your lineup, and his .248 xBA last season suggests he can.
Favorite Round 23 pick
Adalberto Mondesi (ADP: 277.89) – Mondesi was once one of the most controversial players in Fantasy, with some seeing a potential first-round talent and others seeing way too much swing and miss to overcome middling power – a fancy Jorge Mateo, in other words. Mondesi is still recovering from last year's torn ACL and is opening the season on the IL, so you'll need a spot to stash him in. But the nice thing about him going this late is, even if he is just a fancy Jorge Mateo, that's a useful player. And that might be selling Mondesi a bit short – he hit .255 with a 17-homer pace across 2019-2021. It's a nice upside pick at the end of your drafts if you have room for him.