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Top 20 First-Year Player Draft Rankings (Fantasy Baseball)

by Michael Waterloo | @MichaelWaterloo | Featured Writer
Jan 21, 2019

Jonathan India is one of the top prospects for dynasty managers to target in first-year player drafts.

Fantasy baseball doesn’t stop for dynasty league players. It’s a year-round affair, but it really picks up after the end of the NFL regular season. One of the big annual events is the first-year player draft.

Now, these can occur at various times in the year, depending on the league’s makeup. What I’ve noticed is that drafts often take place after the New Year. In this selection process, players selected in the previous year’s first-year MLB draft (2018, in this case) are all up for grabs. These typically include J2 players as well.

After the draft happens each year, I like to do some basic research on the players and utilize fantastic prospect sites such as Prospects Live and Fantrax, who both have out-of-this-world prospect coverage geared toward a fantasy audience.

When the holiday break comes along in December, I dive deep on the prospects. I watch clips of them, look at their player pages, and read scouting reports to build my own list. Even though it’s the post-holiday season, I wanted to share my top-20 first-year eligible prospects for your upcoming drafts.

First, a couple of caveats. As is typical with dynasty coverage, every league is different. These are a basic outline of rankings based on 5×5 settings. If you’re in a points league, you may want to move pitchers up a bit. If your league has OBP instead of AVG, make the necessary adjustments.

Secondly, not all drafts feature the same players. One of my dynasty leagues has Yusei Kikuchi as eligible, but another doesn’t. Read up on your rules and scoring system to cater your rankings to your league.

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  1. Nolan Gorman (3B – STL) – The most power in this draft class, and it’s not close. High strikeout rate in Rookie and Low-A last year, but showed the ability to take a walk. He will require a few years of waiting, but the bat is special.
  2. Jonathan India (3B – CIN) – There are a lot of similarities with India and teammate Nick Senzel. India doesn’t have as good of a hit tool, but it’s still a plus. He has 20/20 potential but will have to switch off the position defensively.
  3. Trevor Larnach (OF – MIN) – Advanced approach from the Oregon State lefty. Had a nice 12.1% walk to 15.7% strikeout rate last year. Should move quickly through the Twins’ system.
  4. Jarred Kelenic (OF – SEA) – The first player traded in this draft class, Kelenic moved from New York to Seattle in the Edwin Diaz and Robinson Cano trade. He’s a prep bat but has all of the makings of a superstar.
  5. Nico Hoerner (SS – CHC) – His bat is his calling card, and while he may not have the highest ceiling of the class, he may have the highest floor. On top of that, he’ll be the first player in his draft class to reach the big leagues. The Stanford product slashed .337/.362/.506 in the Arizona Fall League with nearly one-third of his 30 hits going for extra bases. He’s been a big riser within the industry.
  6. Nick Madrigal (2B – CHW) – Good hit tool and good speed, but that’s where it ends for Madrigal. He has a nice floor and offers that sought-after safety.
  7. Victor Victor Mesa (OF – MIA) – The much-hyped Mesa picked the Marlins for his services, and he looks to be worth the hype. He has an advanced approach at the plate and profiles as a 20/20 player.
  8. Xavier Edwards (SS – SD) – Another big prospect in the Padres’ loaded farm system. Edwards doesn’t offer much power, but he will help those in roto leagues with standout speed as well as OBP players with his plate discipline (15.8% walk rate last year).
  9. Casey Mize (SP – DET) – Mize has all of the makings of a front-line ace. If ranking based on points leagues, he’d be my second overall pick behind Kikuchi with India third. Pitching prospects are fickle, but he’s close to big-league ready. While he should move fast through the Tigers’ system, let’s remember the state of the team, shall we? They are in a massive rebuild, and there’s no reason for Detroit to hurry Mize. Toward the end of 2020 or early 2021 is more realistic for him.
  10. Yusei Kikuchi (SP – SEA) – If you’re in a points league or one arm away from competing now, Kikuchi should be your top guy. Always try to take the immediate difference maker if it’ll give you that extra boost.
  11. Jordan Groshans (3B – TOR) – Good environment for Groshans, and a good bat with developing power.
  12. Alec Bohm (3B – PHI) – The No. 3 overall pick failed to hit a homer in an injury-riddled debut. Kiley McDaniel addressed the concerns in a recent FanGraphs chat: “Yep, too small [of a sample]. And also, as detailed in his report, he has a flatter-planed swing that’s more contact focused than most guys with that kind of raw power, so that could just be what his stats look like until that adjustment is made…and it doesn’t necessarily have to be, but I would guess he moves in that direction.”
  13. Jordyn Adams (OF – LAA) – Raw athleticism. Could make a similar jump that Jo Adell did last year. A post-Trout Angels’ outfield of Adell, Adams, and Brandon Marsh is very intriguing and athletic.
  14. Marco Luciano (OF – SF) – I don’t know a lot about Luciano, so I’ll let Prospects Live’s Ralph Lifshitz give his take from their Top 100 list: “The best all-around hitter in the 2018 International class. Luciano possesses impressive wiry strength, plus bat speed, and quick-twitch athleticism. The J2 kid to chase in dynasty.”
  15. Joey Bart (C – SF) – The heir apparent to Buster Posey has big power, but also big swing-and-miss in his game. It’s always tough to chase catchers in dynasty leagues.
  16. Travis Swaggerty (OF – PIT) – Despite his last name, the performance on the field could be better than the puns associated with him. Fantastic hit tool and floor.
  17. Matthew Liberatore (SP – TB) – There was chatter that Liberatore could go No. 1 overall. This is earlier than I typically like to take a pitcher—let alone a high school arm—but he has No. 2 fantasy potential with three-plus pitches.
  18. Grant Lavigne (1B – COL) – Yes, Colorado hates its young players, but he’s worth chasing for the potential after a strong Rookie ball start with Coors Field as future his home park.
  19. Seth Beer (OF – HOU) – Sure, he has plus-power and a fine hit tool, but he’s going to move more merch than perhaps this entire list combined.
  20. Cole Winn (SP – TEX) – We haven’t seen anything from Winn since the draft, but the prep arm has ace potential. As always, there’s a big risk with pitching prospects, let alone high school pitching prospects.

Honorable Mentions:

  1. Alek Thomas (OF – ARI)
  2. Malcolm Nunez (SS – STL)
  3. Parker Meadows (OF – DET)
  4. Brady Singer (SP – KC)
  5. Tristan Casas (1B/3B – BOS)

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Michael Waterloo is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Michael, check out his archive and follow him @MichaelWaterloo.

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