With spring training underway and fantasy drafts season in full swing, the NBC Sports EDGE/Rotoworld crew (and several of our close friends in the industry) got together earlier this month to select players in standard snake-style fashion for a 12-team mock league.
We'll cover the opening three rounds extensively in this space and fantasy managers can find the complete round-by-round analysis in the Rotoworld Baseball Draft Guide, which is now available online for $19.99. Get all the Player Profiles, Rankings and Projections you need to hit your draft out of the park. Click here to buy now!
We utilized the basic 5x5 scoring that most fantasy managers are accustomed to: AVG, R, HR, RBI and SB on the hitting side, along with W, ERA, WHIP, SV and K on the pitching side. We also used the following Yahoo default position setup: C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, OF, OF, OF, UTIL, UTIL, SP, SP, RP, RP, P, P, P, P, BN, BN, BN, BN, BN.
One important note here is that Shohei Ohtani was split into two different players – one is a hitter and one is a pitcher – to conform to standard Yahoo formats. Had this been a league where Ohtani was one player and eligible as both, he would have found himself squarely in the early stages of the first round.
Here is the full list of participants:
1. Drew Wheeler, Prospects Live
2. Frank Ammirante, The Game Day
3. Dave Shovein, NBC Sports EDGE/Rotoworld
4. D.J. Short, NBC Sports EDGE/Rotoworld
5. Mike Gianella, Baseball Prospectus
6. Ben Palmer, PitcherList
7. Brendan Tuma, Underdog Fantasy
8. Carlos Marcano, Baseball Prospectus/PitcherList
9. Colin Henderson, NBC Sports EDGE/Rotoworld
10. Greg Jewett, The Athletic
11. George Bissell, NBC Sports EDGE/Rotoworld
12. Shelly Verougstrate, NBC Sports EDGE/Rotoworld
1.1 Trea Turner, SS, Phillies
1.2 Ronald Acuña Jr., OF, Braves
1.3 José Ramírez, 3B, Guardians
1.4 Aaron Judge, OF, Yankees
1.5 Julio Rodríguez, OF, Mariners
1.6 Kyle Tucker, OF, Astros
1.7 Mookie Betts, OF, Dodgers
1.8 Yordan Alvarez, OF, Astros
1.9 Juan Soto, OF, Padres
1.10 Shohei Ohtani, UTIL, Angels
1.11 Mike Trout, OF, Angels
1.12 Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 1B, Blue Jays
With home run totals regressing to pre-juiced ball levels due to manufacturing changes to the baseball itself, positional scarcity – most notably in the outfield and at third base – is a phenomenon that's re-entered the fantasy zeitgeist. A whopping eight outfielders (and third baseman José Ramírez) came off the board in the opening round, which shockingly didn't end up including a starting pitcher. Two thirds of the opening-round selections came from the outfield, which is a sudden departure from recent years. Elite-caliber starting pitchers haven't become less critical to constructing a championship-caliber roster, but rather the lack of impact fantasy contributors in the outfield has pushed them further down draft boards this spring. A fully healthy Ronald Acuña Jr. rising two spots from December's initial NBC Sports EDGE mock draft, which can be found in the annual draft magazine, which is currently available on newsstands nation-wide. It's also notable that Vladimir Guerrero Jr. jumped a couple spots from the middle of the second round up into the final pick of the first round, thanks to hitter-friendly offseason dimension changes to the Rogers Centre.
2.13 Gerrit Cole, SP, Yankees
2.14 Freddie Freeman, 1B, Dodgers
2.15 Manny Machado, 3B, Padres
2.16 Corbin Burnes, SP, Brewers
2.17 Pete Alonso, 1B, Mets
2.18 Bobby Witt Jr., SS/3B, Royals
2.19 Sandy Alcantara, SP, Marlins
2.20 Bo Bichette, SS, Blue Jays
2.21 Austin Riley, 3B, Braves
2.22 Michael Harris II, OF, Braves
2.23 Fernando Tatis Jr., SS/OF, Padres
2.24 Rafael Devers, 3B, Red Sox
After prioritizing offense in the opening round, the ensuing dozen selections feature an abundance of proven four-category building blocks – Freddie Freeman, Manny Machado, Pete Alonso, Austin Riley and Rafael Devers – in addition to a plethora of burgeoning five-category superstars – Bobby Witt Jr., Bo Bichette, Michael Harris II and Fernando Tatis Jr. – toward the back-end of the round. If you're keeping score at home, that's a mere three starting pitchers – Gerrit Cole, Corbin Burnes and Sandy Alcantara – through two-dozen picks to open the draft. The starting pitching run is definitely coming, but the fantasy managers in this group focused on building their offensive core group at the outset of the draft. There was only one manager who didn't take either an outfielder or third baseman with at least one of their first two selections and they ended up with an elite first baseman and arguably the best pitcher in baseball. That'll work.
3.25 Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Cardinals
3.26 Jacob deGrom, SP, Rangers
3.27 Spencer Strider, SP, Braves
3.28 Aaron Nola, SP, Phillies
3.29 Brandon Woodruff, SP, Brewers
3.30 Carlos Rodón, SP, Yankees
3.31 Jose Altuve, 2B, Astros
3.32 Shane McClanahan, SP, Rays
3.33 Francisco Lindor, SS, Mets
3.34 Matt Olson, 1B, Braves
3.35 Justin Verlander, SP, Mets
3.36 Marcus Semien, 2B, Rangers
We've focused primarily on the impact of positional scarcity at third base and outfield during the early stages of fantasy drafts so far, but there's plenty of historical data to support early-round starting pitchers being far more likely to return their draft-day acquisition cost than position players, especially those on the younger side with a wider range of potential outcomes. That exact phenomenon is why a staggering seven arms finally went off the board – including five in a row at one point – in the third round. The biggest question mark of that group is Jacob deGrom, who is already dealing with left side soreness at the outset of spring training. Those concerns appear to be relatively minor, but still figure to drop his average draft position a couple spots, which creates an opportunity for fantasy managers that are willing to take on some additional risk. It's notable that flame-throwing Braves right-hander Spencer Strider was the fifth starting pitcher off the board after finishing last season with a remarkable 2.67 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 202/45 K/BB ratio across 131 2/3 innings (31 appearances, 20 starts).
MLB Quick Hits: According to Jayson Stark of The Athletic, Major League Baseball has informed club officials that it will be encouraging umpires to refocus on preventing pitchers from using "sticky stuff" this season … Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports that the Diamondbacks have begun conversations with top prospect Corbin Carroll regarding a long-term contract extension … Lance McCullers Jr. won't be ready for Opening Day after being diagnosed with a muscle strain in his right elbow … Frankie Montas (shoulder) is scheduled to begin a throwing program in 12 weeks after undergoing right labrum cleanup surgery on Wednesday … Yordan Alvarez is dealing with left hand discomfort and will not resume swinging a bat for a few days … Miguel Vargas won't swing a bat for a few days after suffering a hairline fracture in his right pinky finger while fielding grounders … Mariners manager Scott Servais said Thursday that Andrés Muñoz (foot) is "ahead of schedule," but remains at least one week away from making his Cactus League debut … Marlins manager Skip Schumaker said earlier this week that he will likely go without a traditional closer this season … Jacob deGrom (side) threw off a mound on Thursday … Bryce Harper (elbow) has been cleared to begin taking dry swings … Guardians RHP prospect Daniel Espino will be shut down from throwing for at least eight weeks due to a right shoulder strain … Drew Waters will be out six weeks after being diagnosed with a left oblique strain … Tyrone Taylor will be sidelined for two weeks due to a right elbow sprain … Kyle Wright plans to be ready for the start of the regular season after receiving a cortisone injection last month in his right shoulder … Michael Soroka (hamstring) said Tuesday that the Braves haven't determined when he'll be cleared to begin running or throwing off a mound … Aaron Ashby (shoulder) said on Tuesday that he's targeting a mid-May return … Phillies RHP prospect Noah Song reported to spring training on Thursday after being transferred by the Navy from active duty to selective reserves … Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said Tuesday that Tyler O'Neill and Dylan Carlson will compete this spring for the starting job in center field … Jazz Chisholm Jr. will make his first Grapefruit League start in center field on Sunday against the Cardinals … Tanner Houck said on Wednesday that he's had conversations with the Red Sox regarding a long-term contract extension … Joe Ryan revamped his slider and also added a split-changeup this offseason … Twins signed INF Donovan Solano to a one-year, $2 million contract … White Sox re-signed SS Elvis Andrus to a one-year, $3 million contract … Cubs signed RHP Michael Fulmer to a one-year, $4 million contract … Brewers signed 1B Luke Voit and OF Tyler Naquin to minor league contracts with invitations to spring training … Mariners signed OF Kole Calhoun to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training … Rays signed OF Ben Gamel to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training … Rangers signed LHP Joe Palumbo to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training … Mariners signed INF Kean Wong to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training … Padres signed LHP Jared Koenig and OF Daniel Johnson to minor league contracts … Tigers signed RHP Ashton Goudeau to a minor league contract … Reds claimed LHP Bennett Sousa off waivers from the White Sox … Twins placed RHP Chris Paddack on the 60-day injured list with a right elbow injury … Cubs placed RHP Codi Heuer on the 60-day injured list with a right elbow injury … Reds placed RHP Vladimir Gutiérrez on the 60-day injured list with a right elbow injury.