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Top 20 First-Year Player Draft Rankings (2020 Fantasy Baseball)

by Michael Waterloo | @MichaelWaterloo | Featured Writer
Jan 9, 2020

JJ Bleday has the all-around game that you want from a first-round pick.

In redraft leagues, there is no better time than your draft prep and actual draft. For dynasty leagues, though, as great as the draft is, the research and preparation for the first-year player draft is the cream of the crop. 

Over the holidays, I battled a cold that just wouldn’t go away, so it was a lot of lounging around watching movies with my wife. But when I had some alone time, I spent the better part of two weeks in bed researching my favorite first-year players.

Since we are discussing dynasty, let’s get the usual discussion out of the way. Every single dynasty league is different. Some will have separate drafts for these players, while others will include them with the available free agents. Some leagues will allow J2 players to be included, along with international signings. Hell, some of these drafts took place last season for the upcoming 2020 season. To help out as many players as possible, I’m going to include international signings and J2 players in this article.

I went back and looked at my top 20 FYPD article from last year, and I’m pretty happy with the results overall. There were a few misses there, but I’m happy to put my name on that.

Like always, I recommend that you check out the work that the great people at Prospects Live and Fantrax are doing with their nonstop prospect coverage that is geared toward a fantasy crowd.

As always, know the rules of your league and the scoring. If it’s a points league, pitchers will be elevated, and speed guys will be suppressed in terms of value.

Here are my top 20 first-year guys to target in your drafts, as well as five who just missed the cut.

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  1. Andrew Vaughn (1B – CWS) – He’s the most polished hitter in the draft and the safest option at No. 1 overall. It looks like he can hit 30 homers with a .295-.300 average or so. He’s in a great ballpark and has pretty solid contact skills. Let’s not forget the roster the White Sox have constructed for the future. Vaughn is a safe pick with a great floor and ceiling.
  2. Jasson Dominguez (OF – NYY) – Dominguez has an insane ceiling, and the current hype train is going off the rails. Is he Kevin Maitan Jr.,? There’s the risk, of course, but he looks more polished. All of the tools are all there, with great power and speed being the biggest highlights for fantasy. It’s the pick with the highest risk since it’s coming this high, but no player has the potential to impact your team like Dominguez. If anyone has the chance to be the next Ronald Acuna, Juan Soto, Vladimier Guerrero Jr., or Wander Franco from this class, it’s Dominguez. 
  3. Bobby Witt Jr. (SS – KC) – A year ago, he was the consensus No. 1 pick in the actual draft and fantasy drafts, and any other year, he probably would have been both. I don’t love him in Kansas City with their track record with prospects, but the power/speed combo that he offers is too much to pass over. He’s drawn some comparisons to Trevor Story and Carlos Correa. Sign me up.
  4. CJ Abrams (SS – SD) – I was torn between Abrams and Witt at three and four. Ultimately, the power gives the edge to Witt, but that’s not to discount Abrams. He has elite speed and a plus-hit tool.
  5. Adley Rutschman (C – BAL) – You could make an argument for him being first overall, but it’s hard to justify taking a catcher that high for me. I feel uncomfortable taking him fifth, honestly. The position is terrible for fantasy, and it looks to be that way moving forward, despite guys like Joey Bart, Sean Murphy, and Will Smith on their way up or just arriving. Rutschman, though, is a switch-hitter and will be arriving rather quickly to Baltimore, and should be the consensus top catcher draft yearly in the not-so-distant future. He’s a top 10 overall prospect but gets bumped down a little in fantasy because of his position. 
  6. Corbin Carroll (OF – ARI) – Carroll paired with Alek Thomas in the Arizona outfield is going to be trouble for a long time for the opposition. He doesn’t have the power you’d like to see, but I think he can grow into 16-17 home runs to go along with a high average, nice walk rate, and good hitting ability. He’s a standout in OBP leagues with the walk rate, and his calling card is his speed. He stole 18 bases in 42 games between Rookie ball and Low-A.
  7. JJ Bleday (OF – MIA) – By the time Opening Day hits, I wouldn’t be surprised if Bleday jumps Carroll, honestly. I’m not worried about his pedestrian start to the year last season in High-A. He has the all-around game that you want from a first-round pick, and he just mashes the ball. He should move quickly, even if he’s stuck in Miami. He needs to increase his walk-rate and lower his strikeout rate this season. 
  8. Riley Greene (OF – DET)  – I get nervous with prep bats, but Baseball Prospectus called him the “best pure prep hitter” in the class. He grades out at 60 power and 60 hit, and he has a nice looking swing from the left side. He could move quickly for a prep hitter, as he reached Single-A last year. Could see him in late 2021.
  9. Hunter Bishop (OF – SF) – Man, I hate the Giants system, and if I end up with the ninth pick and Bishop is there, I’m not sure if I can take him. I like the power, the speed, and his walk rate – he gets a bump in OBP leagues – but I have concerns over the hit tool and ballpark. 
  10. Josh Jung (3B – TEX) – I may be higher on Jung than most, but I also like a good, safe player that is close to the big leagues. That’s why I liked Nico Hoerner so much last year. Jung is a steady player with good power and on-base skills. He’s not going to be a star, but he’s a good bet to be the first player in this class to arrive to the big leagues, and he’ll be a solid, everyday contributor for you with a plus-hit tool and 25-plus homers.
  11. Alek Manoah (SP – TOR) – Manoah is my favorite pitcher in a bad class for arms. He’s a big guy (6’6) out of West Virginia, and while he doesn’t possess the ace upside that a Nate Pearson does, he can be an SP2 with a really nice floor. He should reach the big leagues by 2021 if he can fine-tune his control.
  12. Erick Pena (OF – KC) – Another J2 guy who is going to require a lot of patience. There are concerns here with him being in Kansas City and being only 16 years old, but there’s high across-the-board upside here if you’re patient.
  13. Robert Puason (SS – OAK) – The first time I hear of Puason was on the Rates and Barrels podcast on The Athletic. Eno Sarris brought him up, and I couldn’t stop digging into him. He’s only 17, but he’s a switch-hitter with true 30-30 potential.
  14. Shogo Akiyama (OF – CIN) – This is the Yusei Kikuchi pick from last year. If you’re competing now and you need immediate help, grab Akiyama. He’s going to be starting every day for the Reds – or so it seems – and his profile reminds me a lot of Shin-soo Choo. 
  15. Jackson Rutledge (SP – WAS) – The natural comp here is Nate Pearson. Rutledge doesn’t throw in the high 90s, but he does touch around 96. He’s overpowering hitters at this point, but he needs to harness his control as he continues to move up levels. He has the highest upside of any arm if you’re looking to gamble. If he can get his curve to come along with his plus-fastball and plus-slider, he could be special. 
  16. Greg Jones (SS – TB) – I love Jones’ elite, 80-grade speed. He has plenty of on-base ability, but what I want to watch this year is if his high walk-rate will balance out his high strikeout rate. He has a low floor, but a great ceiling. Plus, he gets the benefit of being in the Tampa Bay organization.
  17. Kody Hoese (3B – LAD) – His stock increased after a solid junior year at Tulane, but a shoulder injury post draft is concerning. He has standout power, and I tend to trust the Dodgers more than I do with most teams with player development. 
  18. Daniel Espino (SP – CLE) – Great arsenal with at least three-plus pitches – maybe four if changeup can come along. We’ve seen what the Indians have done with pitchers. We have to trust them. High upside, but high risk with the wonky mechanics
  19. George Kirby (SP – SEA) – He threw just 23 innings last year, but as the top college arm to some, he impressed. Like we mentioned above, the pitchers this year are weak compared to previous classes, but if you can get an advanced pitcher with a nice repertoire and good command in the second round, you do it. He allowed zero walks and had 25 strikeouts in those 23 innings last year. He’s just another impressive name in a great system.
  20. Bayron Lora (OF – TEX) – This is a pure upside pick, but that’s OK at this point in the draft. If everything hits, you could be looking 35/10 if everything breaks right. He has a big body, but he’s very young with huge power upside.

Honorable Mention

  1. Kameron Misner (OF – MIA)
  2. Brett Baty (3B – NYM)
  3. Bryson Stott (SS – PHI)
  4. Shea Langeliers (C – ATL)
  5. Nick Lodolo (SP – CIN)

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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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