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Why You Should Pay Attention to the MLB Draft (Fantasy Baseball)

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

Fantasy baseball players should be looking out for the next stars in the annual MLB Draft.

Beyond our fantasy baseball content, be sure to check out our award-winning slate of Fantasy Baseball Tools as you prepare for your draft this season. From our free mock Draft Simulator – which allows you to mock draft against realistic opponents – to our Draft Assistant – which optimizes your picks with expert advice – we’ve got you covered this fantasy baseball draft season.

The best day to trade a prospect away is the day he debuts. There’s a ton of hype around said players, and with expectations to immediately excel like Ronald Acuna Jr., Juan Soto, or Yordan Alvarez out of the gate, it’s typically hard for them to perform to that level. Their value will never be higher.

That is, of course, if people in your league care about prospects. If you’ve been in a dynasty league before, you know there is always that one manager who cares too much about prospects, and that one manager who thinks prospects are an overvalued waste of time.

Every dynasty league has these managers.

Every. Single. Dynasty. League.

As a dynasty league manager, you should look to strike a balance, but you should really look to take advantage of the manager who cares not for prospects. Try to acquire as many of his or her minor league assets as possible, starting with first-year player draft picks.

It’s easy to pay little attention to the MLB Draft as a fantasy player. Really, you can’t blame those who don’t care about it, as there isn’t an immediate impact on the upcoming season like there is with the NBA, NFL, and sometimes, NHL Drafts. 

But if you’re ignoring it in dynasty leagues, you’re setting yourself up for potential disaster in hopes of putting together a big-league core without paying attention to the upcoming stars.

Here are a few reasons why you should care about the draft, what to look for, and where you can get some information on the players to help with your fantasy league.

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Look at Mock Drafts

For some players, it doesn’t matter where they land. A guy like Mookie Betts, Mike Trout, or Bryce Harper would excel anywhere, but it matters for pitchers in Colorado or left-handed hitters in San Francisco. Take a look at different mock drafts to see where players are linked to. Just because a player goes 15th in the first round doesn’t mean that he’s less valuable for fantasy purposes than a player who went sixth overall. Location, path to the big leagues, and organizations matter.

Utilize Prospect Sites

There are a ton of great prospect sites out there who ramp up their coverage for the MLB Draft, as well as provide analysis after for real-life and fantasy purposes.

In addition to our coverage, here are some of the top sites you should bookmark:

  • Prospects Live
  • The Athletic
  • Fantrax
  • Prospects 365
  • Prospects 361
  • Imaginary Brick Wall
  • FanGraphs
  • MLB Pipeline
  • Baseball America
  • Baseball Prospectus

Follow Top Prospect Accounts on Twitter

Twitter can be a dark place, but fantasy baseball Twitter is a fun, bright place. If you’re looking for smart prospect minds, here are some accounts you should follow:

Look at Those Close to the Majors

There are a few great books out there that highlight minor leaguers and the scouting process, what it takes to be the next star, and more. But one book that stands out — more specifically, one chapter — is “Inside Game” by Keith Law and his chapter on Base Rate Neglect.

In it, he discusses why it’s still a bad idea to draft high school pitchers, despite the success of Madison Bumgarner, Clayton Kershaw, and others, because you ignore the many, many who failed in the big leagues or were never heard from after the draft.

Why does this chapter matter for the purpose of this article? Well, it allows you to know the risk vs. reward factor of who you draft in your league’s first-year player draft.

Law took every player drafted in the first round from 1985 to 2012 to see how many put together a 10-WAR career. The parameters were set as such because 2012 was the most recent year to see any high school player accumulate 10 WAR for their career.

Here is the breakdown:

1985-2012 Over 10 WAR Total Players Taken %
High school pitchers 26 159 16.4
College pitchers 59 240 24.6
High school hitters 57 219 26
College hitters 64 179 35.8

 
Not only are college hitters the closest to the majors, but they are the most sure-fire hits that you can draft in your FYPD. Also, as you can tell by the chart, you should probably just avoid drafting and counting on pitchers in dynasty leagues, as the success rate for pitching prospects is really, really low. Pitchers are also easier to acquire once they reach Triple-A or the big leagues.

Identify players like Nick Senzel, Alex Bregman, Andrew Benintendi, Andrew Vaughn, Nico Hoerner, and the like who will provide you with near-immediate returns. If you’re going to take a shot on guys you need to wait on, don’t make it pitchers. Instead, target the J2 crop of international players.

Build Depth

If you take a player who’s close to big-league ready, you can also afford to take a couple of gambles later in your draft during the second, third, or fourth rounds.

Feel free to target pitchers here who may have a delivery concern or arm trouble. Target players who have sky-high upside, knowing that even if they don’t click, you won’t lose out on value. Look at a player like Brice Turang who had makeup issues, and gamble that he matures as a person and as much as he could as a ballplayer. 

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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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