Top 20 First-Year Player Draft Rankings (2021 Fantasy Baseball)
Happy New Year, and happy fantasy baseball prep season. Well, for some of you, anyway. With more and more fantastic content being put out around the entire industry, prep season is essentially year-round now.
Especially for those in dynasty leagues.
One of the best parts of dynasty leagues is the annual first-year player draft. Each dynasty league – and team – is different, of course, but adding the freshly-drafted prospects is always a date that’s circled on the calendar.
Contrary to some beliefs around the fantasy industry, prospects matter, and prospects can be scouted and projected. Few do it better than the guys at Prospects Live and Fantrax, and like we did last year, we’ll pull from their analysis for some of the guys listed below.
I’ve watched tape on all of them, but I’m not going to pretend to be a scout here. I do, though, have a good feel for where they should be taken in drafts.
Before we look at the top 20 options for this year, let’s look back at last year’s rankings.
Overall, it was a solid list, but Kody Hoese probably should have been higher in the rankings.
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 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.
1. Spencer Torkelson (1B/3B – DET)
You could debate who the No. 1 player should be in FYPD drafts in the past few years. This year, there’s no debate. It’s Torkelson, and it’s not close. He has the highest floor and ceiling in the draft, and while he was announced as a third baseman during the draft, he’s better suited at first. For fantasy, that doesn’t matter. What does matter is his 30-plus homers with a .275 average that you’ll get annually.
2. Austin Martin (3B/SS – TOR)
This is my favorite pick of the draft, and while he’s not as good as Torkelson, Martin arguably has the highest floor of the rest of the draft field. He has the best hit tool in the draft, and he showcased it over a stellar career at Vanderbilt. Where will he play on the field on a young, crowded Blue Jays team? Probably third base, assuming Vladimir Guerrero adjusts to first base well.
3. Garrett Mitchell (OF – MIL)
Mitchell isn’t just a hit on TikTok, but he’s a hit of a draft pick for the Brewers, too. He’s third for me, mainly because I don’t trust Pittsburgh or Colorado in their player development, but that’s not to discredit Mitchell. He’s a toolsy player who has 25/25 potential.
4. Zac Veen (OF – COL)
Veen, the athlete, is incredible, but the two things working against him are A. he’s a high school bat and B. he’s in Colorado, who has shown trends of blocking their young players for older veterans.
5. Nick Gonzales (2B – PIT)
It’s a new regime in Pittsburgh, so this is Ben Cherington’s first prospect to develop. Boy, is he a good one. He’s a .300 hitter with passable power and speed.
6. Ha-seong Kim (SS/2B – SD)
San Diego wanted everyone this offseason, including Kim, the top international player available. If you’re competing this year, you could take him second overall, but like many international players, the expectations are split on how his game will translate.
7. Emerson Hancock (SP – SEA)
Finally, a pitcher. This year’s pitching class is a lot better than last year’s, but they are still the riskiest players to take in FYPD drafts (college pitchers are safer than high school arms, though). Hancock leads this year’s class, and he joins a group of Logan Gilbert and George Kirby in Seattle who gives the Mariners three potential frontline starters with SP2 upside for the foreseeable future.
8. Max Meyer (SP – MIA)
Miami pitchers are fun for fantasy. Imagine if they still had Zac Gallen, Luis Castillo, and Chris Paddack. Meyer has good command of his three pitches, but the concern for the first pitcher taken in the draft is his height. Short pitchers typically don’t hold up well over the course of their careers.
9. Asa Lacy (SP – KC)
There was some surprise that Lacy went after Meyer in the draft, and while it’s not quite what Seattle has, Lacy adds another high-potential arm to the Royals’ system, as well. The development of his changeup is key.
1o. Pete Crow-Armstrong (OF – NYM)
And another high school bat here. If you can’t tell, the approach I have for FYPD drafts is taking college bats who can A. contribute sooner, and B. carry less risk, though sometimes a lower floor. Crow-Armstrong is the exception here. PCR has a potential .280 with 20/20 value, which would be big for the Mets.
11. Austin Hendrick (OF – CIN)
Hendrick is another high school bat, but you can’t overlook the potential he has with his 30-homer potential, which will play up to around 35, with half of his games taking place in Cincinnati. Can he improve as an overall hitter is the real question. He’s a high-reward, moderate-risk pick.
12. Wilman Diaz (SS – NA)*
13. Christian Hernandez (SS – NA)*
Neither Diaz nor Hernandez can officially sign with any teams until January 15, but both have high ceilings as 17-year-olds. MLB gave Diaz a 60-hit, 55-power, and 50-speed grades, while Hernandes has Manny Machado comparisons and styles his game after Javier Báez. Hernandes has 50-hit, 55-power, and 55-speed grades. The Dodgers are the favorite to sign Diaz, where the Cubs are considered the favorites to land Hernandes.
15. Heston Kjerstad (OF – BAL)
We know that the Orioles took Kjerstad second overall to get under slot, but he still has a nice fantasy profile with his power on display in Baltimore. The Orioles have some great young pieces.
16. Garrett Crochet (SP/RP – CHW)
Crochet made his major league debut last year out of the bullpen for the White Sox, which is exciting to see. Crochet looks to have avoided a serious injury after the season, which is positive. His 101-mph fastball wowed people, but will Chicago keep him in the bullpen long term?
17. Mick Abel (SP – PHI)
There’s no denying Abel’s upside, but there’s also a reason it took us this long to have our first high school pitcher show up. They carry, by far, the most risk of any drafted player. He’s built like a frontline pitcher. Has the stuff of a frontline pitcher. If he falls to you here, sure, why not? It’s unlikely, though. Let someone else gamble with his health and development.
18. Robert Hassell (OF – SD)
San Diego is a team you trust to develop guys, and Hassell adds to their still deep farm system. You’re looking at a potential 25/25 guys with a solid average.
19. Nick Bitsko (SP – TB)
The pitchers’ injury risk was on full display here with Bitsko, who underwent shoulder surgery for a labrum issue in December. Bitsko will be fighting an uphill battle, but the Rays are the best at developing pitchers in baseball. If he can come back healthy, his ceiling is enormous.
20. Aaron Sabato (1B – MIN)
Even in Minnesota, Sabato can hit 30-plus homers. He has insane power but can also contribute in other ways with the bat. Just look at his 2019 season at North Carolina.
- Isaiah Greene (OF – NYM)
- Ed Howard (SS – CHC)
- Carlos Colmenarez (SS – NA)*
- Reid Detmers (SP – LAA)
- Cole Wilcox (SP – TB)
*International signing date begins January 15.
Whether you’re new to fantasy baseball or a seasoned pro, our Fantasy Baseball 101: Strategy Tips & Advice page is for you. You can get started with our Sabermetrics Glossary or head to more advanced strategy – like How to Make Custom Fantasy Baseball Rankings with Microsoft Excel – to learn more.