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Players to Pair with First-Round Picks (2019 Fantasy Baseball)

by Michael Waterloo | @MichaelWaterloo | Featured Writer
Feb 28, 2019

Taking Mike Trout first overall is the easy part, but what should drafters do with their next picks?

The old adage is that you can’t win your fantasy draft in the first round. While that’s true, nailing the pick certainly helps set your team’s foundation.

Even if you knock your first-round pick out of the park, you have to use that foundational piece correctly when building your team. In order to maximize the first rounder’s impact, I am going to look at players you should add to them using standard 5×5 scoring for a 15-team league. I will use NFBC ADP for this exercise (as of February 11).

Let’s first take a look at the current first round ADP for NFBC and build from there:

  1. Mike Trout (OF – LAA)
  2. Mookie Betts (OF – BOS)
  3. Jose Ramirez (3B – CLE)
  4. Francisco Lindor (SS – CLE)*
  5. J.D. Martinez (DH/OF – BOS)
  6. Max Scherzer (SP – WAS)
  7. Christian Yelich (OF – MIL)
  8. Ronald Acuna (OF – ATL)
  9. Nolan Arenado (3B – COL)
  10. Trea Turner (SS – WAS)
  11. Jacob deGrom (SP – NYM)
  12. Alex Bregman (SS/3B – HOU)
  13. Javier Baez (2B/SS/3B – CHC)
  14. Manny Machado (SS – SD)
  15. Jose Altuve (2B – HOU)

*ADP includes drafts before Lindor’s calf strain was announced. His ADP has fallen to 11 in drafts after the news broke on Feb. 8. 

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First pick: Mike Trout
Let’s start with who to pair with Trout. You’re already at a nice advantage with Trout, who produces in five categories and is the safest player in baseball to return value. With the 30th and 31st picks, you can go many ways. I’m looking to get a second-tier ace with my next pick. One of Justin Verlander, Corey Kluber, Aaron Nola, Gerrit Cole, Blake Snell, Luis Severino, or Trevor Bauer should be there.

At pick 31, I’m looking for upside. Both Kris Bryant and Juan Soto would be a nice fit here.

Picks: Blake Snell and Kris Bryant

Second pick: Mookie Betts
Similar to Trout, Betts offers production in all the right places. I’ll take the same approach here with Betts that I did with Trout. Give me one of those pitchers and a nice upside pick in the third round.

Picks: Trevor Bauer and Juan Soto

Third pick: Jose Ramirez
The first two picks are a slam dunk. After that, a discussion can be had about who belongs where. With Ramirez, you’re taking a third baseman early at a deep position in the draft. Despite slumping in the second half, he is relatively safe and offers production across the board.

With this team’s second pick, look to grab one of the pitchers from the tier above. Severino or Clayton Kershaw would make sense here.

For the team’s early third-round pick, someone like Starling Marte would make sense to give more overall contribution, but I’m going with Anthony Rizzo to lock up a first baseman. The position is very top-heavy this year.

Picks: Luis Severino and Anthony Rizzo

Fourth pick: Francisco Lindor
This … stinks. We are going to assume that Lindor will miss seven-to-nine weeks, and the person drafting is willing to take on that risk. In all likelihood, Lindor should be a late first-round or early second-round pick, but let’s go with it.

Safety is the name of the game here, so Charlie Blackmon is the ideal candidate to pair with Lindor. Blackmon took a step back in 2018, but his step back was still really, really good.

Instead of taking a pitcher here, I’m going to try to make up for Lindor’s loss even more with another position player. Marte, Rhys Hoskins, and Anthony Rendon all come to mind as potential options.

Picks: Charlie Blackmon and Starling Marte

Fifth pick: J.D. Martinez
Martinez is going to mash again this season for Boston, and as a DH, his chance of staying healthy only increases.

I want a top pitcher to pair with him. Someone like Cole, Kluber, or Nola. The one aspect missing from Martinez’s game is speed. Targeting Whit Merrifield is a perfect pairing to go along with Martinez and an ace.

Picks: Gerrit Cole and Whit Merrifield

Sixth pick: Max Scherzer
The first pitcher is off the board here with Scherzer. He is the clear No. 1 pitcher this year, and while I feel it’s too early to take one, I get it.

I’m now playing catch-up now with my hitting, so I want to take someone who has first-round upside to make up for it. Enter Giancarlo Stanton, who hit 59 homers in 2017 before merely settling for 38 last season.

With my third-round pick, I am looking at another arm. I want to maximize the advantage that I have by taking Scherzer early in the first by pairing him with another top-level arm.

Picks: Giancarlo Stanton and Clayton Kershaw

Seventh pick: Christian Yelich
It seems like all it took was getting Yelich out of Miami for him to reach his potential. There are still concerns with how sustainable the power is, but he’s earned his spot in the first round following his MVP season in Milwaukee. 

Grabbing a first baseman would be a good call here if one of the top two (Freddie Freeman and Paul Goldschmidt) fall. If not, grab a top arm. 

Depending on who you grab with your second pick, you should go either pitcher or hitter here. A second-tier first baseman isn’t a bad play if you go pitcher in Round 2.

Picks: Corey Kluber and Rhys Hoskins

Eighth pick: Ronald Acuna
First-round picks are usually agreed upon, but drafting Acuna here could cause some consternation. If you’re a risk-seeker who likes the big reward, go for it. He should be a first rounder, just maybe not this high.

If you notice a trend here, I like pairing a hitter and pitcher together early. This is the latest example. Give me Kluber, Verlander, or Nola.

This pick could go a number of ways here. You have high upside with your first-round pick and an ace with your second. In the third, take the best player available on your board.

Picks: Aaron Nola and Carlos Carrasco

Ninth pick: Nolan Arenado
A case could be made to have Arenado third overall. He’s as consistent as they come with a high floor and a high ceiling. Playing in Coors doesn’t hurt, but the depth of his position moves him down in the round a bit.

When you take one of the deepest positions, pair the player with someone from one of the weakest. You’re drafting stats at the end of the day, but if I can get an elite option at a top-heavy position, I’ll take it. One of Goldschmidt or Freeman makes the perfect pairing.

That’s a lot of safety in the first two rounds. Give me some risk in the third with a high-upside arm.

Picks: Freddie Freeman and Walker Buehler

10th pick: Trea Turner
Although he’s disappointed with expectations the past two season, Turner returned value each year. One of these years he’s going to have a Jose Altuve-type season. I want to be here for it.

You can pair Turner with an ace or a top-level hitter. Give me the hitter here. With Buehler off the board, I’ll take another high-upside arm in Noah Syndergaard.

Picks: Andrew Benintendi and Noah Syndergaard

11th pick: Jacob deGrom
DeGrom is sure to regress this year, but after his historic season, that’s more than OK. He’s still worth a first-round investment.

With deGrom, I’m looking for a first-round caliber hitter in the second round. In the third, I’m likely to go the best-player-available route.

Picks: Paul Goldschmidt and Khris Davis

12th pick: Alex Bregman
Bregman’s versatility is huge, as you can slot him in at third base or shortstop and draft the best player available at the other position. Both have great options this year throughout the draft.

I want a big bopper if I can get one in the second round. I’m looking to the outfield to fill this draft spot.

The second-tier pitchers are gone at this point, and there’s no reason to reach on someone like Patrick Corbin or James Paxton here, so I’ll take another hitter. This is where Bregman’s positional flexibility really helps

Picks: Aaron Judge and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

13th pick: Javier Baez
Baez is a controversial first-round pick, but he, too, has great positional flexibility to help your draft along.

The best player available at the 18th pick is Trevor Story, which gives you the most boom-or-bust opening two picks possible. Rounding out your infield is a good approach with your third pick. Third base is deep, so let’s take the last second-tier first baseman.

Picks: Trevor Story and Cody Bellinger

14th pick: Manny Machado
Machado’s a safe first rounder, and he carries the ceiling of a top-five player overall. Great value at 14.

If I draft Machado, I’m hoping Chris Sale falls to me at 16. It’s him or Bryce HarperIn the third round, I don’t want to fall much further behind in pithing. While Rendon is tempting, I’m taking the best arm left on my board.

Picks: Bryce Harper and Jameson Taillon

15th pick: Jose Altuve
You’re pairing Altuve, the preseason No. 2 player overall last season, with Sale. You are looking for bounce-back years for both players, who when healthy can be top-five players. A tremendous turn to start the draft.

There are many considerations for this spot. A guy like Rendon gives safety, and Xander Bogaerts would be a nice complementary infield piece. Instead, I’m grabbing the top player at his respective position.

Picks: Chris Sale and J.T. Realmuto

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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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