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2019 Fantasy Baseball Draft Recap: First Round

by Michael Waterloo | @MichaelWaterloo | Featured Writer
Dec 31, 2019

There’s no reason for Christian Yelich to slow down in 2020

Draft season is just the best. It only accounts for about a third of what it takes to be a successful fantasy manager — along with being active on the waiver wire and luck — but it’s the most enjoyable by far.

Slow draft. Auction draft. Regular draft. It doesn’t matter. Inject them all into my veins, please.

We research throughout the offseason and do a countless number of mock drafts just to prepare us for draft night. There’s usually a consensus top three or four picks off the board, but after that, preference can come into play. Still, if you look at the top-12 players to make up the first round, regardless of order, you’ll see in more drafts than not the same names going.

While missing on your first-round pick doesn’t mean that you’re doomed for the season, it does put you behind your leaguemates by whiffing on that early stud. In the first part of a five-part series, we’re going to review the first round of 2019 drafts and how those players performed for 2019 and where they are currently going in 2020 drafts.

We’ll be using FantasyPros’ 2019 ADP and NFBC’s 2020 ADP (as of 12/30/2019)

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1. Mike Trout (OF – LAA) 

2019 ADP: 1, 2020 ADP: 2.45
2019 stats: .291/.438/.645, 45 home runs, 110 runs, 104 RBIs, 11 steals

Ho-hum. Another MVP-like year for Trout, which is weird since Trout is now going third on average in NFBC ADP behind Ronald Acuna and Christian Yelich. Look, I get it. Stolen bases are king. While this isn’t like taking Bryce Harper, Mookie Betts, or Jose Altuve ahead of Trout in past years, it’s still hard for me to pass on the greatest player of all time in his prime at No. 1 overall.

He has some additional lineup support with Anthony Rendon now, too, which is much needed for the Angels’ lineup. I don’t need my first pick to return first overall value for me. I need a high ceiling with a high floor and a player who won’t bust for me. That’s Trout.

2. Mookie Betts (OF – BOS) 

2019 ADP: 2, 2020 ADP: 5.19
2019 stats: .295/.391/.524, 29 home runs, 135 runs, 80 RBIs, 16 steals

It was a down year statistically speaking for Betts, who saw his stolen base totals drop by nearly half and his average lower .51 points. His BABIP regressed from a career high .368 in 2018 to .309 in 2019, but his walk and strikeout rate both remained basically the same.

Looking further, there was little change between his hard-hit rate, GB%, FB%, and HR/FB% from 2018 to 2019. The only noticeable dip was in his Barrel%, which fell from 14.1 to 10.3 percent. He was in the top two percent in the league in xBA at .311 and he was inside the top-three percent in xwOBA. There’s not a steep discount on Betts this year, but if I have the fourth pick in my draft, I’m more than happy to end up with Betts.

3. Jose Ramirez (2B/3B – CLE) 

2019 ADP: 3.2, 2020 ADP: 19.23
2019 stats: .255/.327/.479, 23 home runs, 68 runs, 83 RBIs, 24 steals

What a weird year for Ramirez. By June, he looked like he was one of the biggest busts in recent memory. He put together a solid second half to recoup some of the value and reward those who stayed patient with him (or bought low on him). He was still one of nine players to post a 20/20 season and we know how managers clamor for those steals. 

I think he’s a fringe first-rounder, so getting him 19th on average heading into drafts is a solid price. Expect that to go up as drafts get closer.

4. Max Scherzer (SP – WSH) 

2019 ADP: 4.8, 2020 ADP: 17.53
2019 stats: 11 wins, 2.92 ERA, 2.45 FIP, 1.03 WHIP, 35.1 K%, 4.8 BB%

Wash, rinse, repeat. Scherzer has been the safest pitcher to take each year, but he did fail to eclipse 200 regular-season innings for the first time since 2012 last season. He made up for that in the postseason though, and it actually makes me feel a little better about taking him as my ace since he didn’t the normal workload in the regular season.

He will be 36 in the early part of the season and we saw the neck and back come into play during the postseason, which caused him to miss a start. He’s not my first pitcher off the board, but I’d feel comfortable with him as the anchor to my rotation.

5. J.D. Martinez (OF/DH – BOS) 

2019 ADP: 4.8, 2020 ADP: 22.87
2019 stats: .304/.383/.557, 36 home runs, 98 runs, 105 RBIs, 2 steals

We saw a drop across the board for Martinez last year, which fit the Boston season. He still showed that he’s an elite power hitter, who is going to help you in average too, but his average regressed from his career high .330 mark in 2018.

Martinez is going to be 33 this year, which will put in on the downswing for production. Still, I’m comfortable with him as a back-end target in the second round if he gives me similar numbers to his 2019 season.

6. Nolan Arenado (3B – COL) 

2019 ADP: 5.8, 2020 ADP: 11.60
2019 stats: .315/.379/.583, 41 home runs, 102 runs, 118 RBIs, three steals

Remember the whole “high ceiling, high floor, safe pick” designation that we discussed with Trout? The same applies here with Arenado. You know what you’re going to get every single year and being in Coors Field only elevates him more. He’s my favorite security blanket pick each year. 2019 was no different, as he gave you a typical Arenado season, but with a higher average than normal.

Now, if he’s dealt away from Colorado, we will have to revisit his ranking, but he will still be, at worst, a second-round pick.

7. Christian Yelich (OF – MIL) 

2019 ADP: 7.8, 2.40
2019 stats: .329/.429/.671, 44 home runs, 110 runs, 97 RBIs, 30 steals

I’ll eat the crow. I was dead wrong about Yelich busting last year and it wasn’t because I thought he was bad at all. It was just hard to see him replicating his 2018 success given the underlying numbers.

He, instead, added eight homers and steals, increased his walk rate, and improved his triple-slash line across the board, all while keeping his HR/FB rate at what seems to be an unsustainable rate. 

Well, Yelich sustained it last year, and there’s no reason to think he won’t this year, either. I would personally take him third, but it’s hard to argue with those taking him second overall in NFBC drafts.

8. Trea Turner (SS – WSH) 

2019 ADP: 8.4, 2020 ADP: 9.72
2019 stats: .298/.353/.497, 19 home runs, 96 runs, 57 RBIs, 35 steals

We were this close to having the huge year we’ve been waiting on from Turner. He had four steals in his first three games, but then missed a month and a half after breaking his finger while bunting. 

Still, he stole 35 bags and hit 19 homers in 122 games. I still hold out hope that we can get that .300/25/40 season that we’ve been waiting for from Turner. Even without it, he’s a first-round pick (especially in category formats), but I like him toward the backend of the first in points leagues, too.

9. Ronald Acuna (OF – ATL) 

2019 ADP: 9.6, 2020 ADP: 1.38
2019 stats: .280/.365/.518, 41 home runs, 127 runs, 101 RBIs, 37 steals

It’s so great when a player lives up to the hype that they had entering the league. Acuna is now the first player coming off the board for some in fantasy drafts after his monster 2019 season and it’s all because of the steals. He matches Trout nearly everywhere else (except average) but doubled him up in stolen bases last year.

I mean, I get it. I still go Trout here, but I won’t argue with anyone who wants to take Acuna first. He just turned 22 and he’s the clear No. 1 pick in dynasty leagues.

10. Jacob deGrom (SP – NYM) 

2019 ADP: 10.4, 2020 ADP: 9.04
2019 stats: 11 wins, 2.43 ERA, 2.67 FIP, 0.97 WHIP, 31.7 K%, 5.5 BB%

deGrom’s 1.70 ERA regressed as we expected it to, but it regressed to a beautiful 2.43 ERA en route to his second straight NL Cy Young Award. He was masterful across the board again for fantasy, with the only thing holding him back being the team he plays for. 

deGrom is my No. 1 SP this year and I’m expecting another ace-like season for him. He’s one of two pitchers I’d spend a first-round pick on.

11. Chris Sale (SP – BOS) 

2019 ADP 12.4, 2020 ADP: 39.51
2019 stats: six wins, 4.40 ERA, 3.39 FIP, 1.09 WHIP, 35.6 K%, 6.1 BB%

Sale was the Jose Ramirez of pitchers last year as the big bust from the first round. He showed signs of being the Sale that we expected, but he battled injuries and inconsistencies all season. It’s now back-to-back seasons of fewer than 200 innings pitched at 158 and 147.1, respectively. 

If I could get him around pick 55 where Clayton Kershaw was going in drafts last year, I’d take the chance, but there’s no way I’m investing a top-40 pick in Sale after his past two years.

12. Francisco Lindor (SS – CLE) 

2019 ADP: 12.6, 2020 ADP: 8.45
2019 stats: .284/.335/.518, 32 home runs, 101 runs, 74 RBIs, 22 steals

Remember, Lindor was battling a strained calf heading into draft season last year and we had no idea how much time he would miss. He was being drafted as the third player off the board behind Trout and Betts until the injury popped up. I avoided him in drafts because I don’t want the inherent injury risk when I’m building my team – especially in the first round.

Lindor ended up playing 143 games and put together another elite season. Shortstop has been arguably the top position in fantasy for the past four years or so, so it’s easier to wait on your shortstop than in past years. However, there’s a true case for Lindor to be the fourth or fifth player off the board this season.

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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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