The Perfect Fantasy Baseball Draft (2022)
It’s important to have an approach to a fantasy draft.
Some people enter Draft Day set on landing one of the top pitchers. Others plan to punt stolen bases. Whatever it is that you want to achieve during a draft, make sure that you know how it can come to fruition.
This is the main reason to perform mock drafts. They can’t always tell us which players will be available in specific rounds, but they can serve as a guideline as to how a roster may form given the current state of a player’s ADP. Sometimes, however, the mock draft isn’t enough.
This will be the third article I have written in as many years titled “The Perfect Draft.” For me, this is my approach. I want to know what it would look like for everything to fall into place – for no one to snipe my players and everyone to fall exactly where they should. It is, of course, impractical, but I do place some restrictions on what could happen – after all, I want to learn about possibilities, and certain combinations are simply not possible.
In the end, I will accept that my “perfect draft” is a pipe dream. It’s the nature of the beast. Still, when Draft Day arrives and some of the players I list here are available at the price I identified to be “perfect,” I will know how close I am to my ideal roster.
I am selecting early in the draft – 3rd out of 12 – and the lineup is as follows: C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, 3 OF, UTIL, 5 SP, 3 RP, 5 BN. It was conducted using FantasyPros’ Average Draft Position as the framework. I am using each 12-pick “block” as a round and only selecting players available in that “round” or later.
1.3 – Juan Soto (OF – WSH)
In the aforementioned past iterations of this article, I picked in the middle of the first round to allow for the most balanced draft order. Here, I had to force myself to pick third so that I could guarantee one of the “top-three” assets in 2022. Ideally, I’d want to pick in the top-two and secure either Fernando Tatis Jr. (SS – SD) or Juan Soto, but Trea Turner (2B,SS – LAD) is routinely treated as the second player off the board, so I could justify Soto lasting until the third pick. It’s not likely that he goes much later than that. He would be the cornerstone of my team with his flat-out ridiculous numbers: a career .301 hitter with 2,003 plate appearances and an average of 34 home runs for every 162 games.
2.10 – Jacob deGrom (SP – NYM)
Over the last few years, it would have been impossible to start a fantasy team with both Juan Soto and Jacob deGrom. An injury to the latter has pushed his ADP into the second round and, even if it were to creep higher, I’m drafting with the expectation that he remains available until I need him. There is no argument against deGrom other than the unknown in how he fares after last season’s injury. I’ll take the chance with easily one of the best pitchers in the game.
3.3 – Shane Bieber (SP – CLE)
In a prior mock draft, I took back-to-back starting pitchers in the second and third rounds, and I loved the result. One of those pitchers happened to be Shane Bieber, so why break away from the setup that produced a dangerous rotation out of the gate? Like the aforementioned deGrom, Bieber spent enough time on the Injured List to cause some concern. Also, like the aforementioned deGrom, Bieber is a former Cy Young winner who could return to form and dominate with a season that easily outperforms his current draft position.
4.10 – Pete Alonso (1B – NYM)
I’ve drifted toward drafting Pete Alonso for more of my rosters of late, and I don’t see that trend changing anytime soon. He is a power machine who saw natural regression after winning the Rookie of the Year Award in 2019. His ADP has now stabilized and his batting average returned to slightly surpass his outstanding ’19 campaign. Perhaps most importantly, the first base position is not known for its stability in 2022, and Alonso can help fill the need relatively early.
Starting my roster with three players from the New York Mets is not exactly my idea of “perfect,” but it just-so-happens that the right Mets were available at the right time. The shortstop position is deep, but it’s also top-heavy in the sense that it becomes difficult to match others’ performances with some of the options we will find in the later rounds. Francisco Lindor was a major disappointment in his debut with New York – his batting average was 28 points lower than his career-worst from 2020 – but he is the long-term solution for the franchise that signed him to a ten-year deal last offseason. It’s unlikely that his struggles stretch into the second year of his tenure with the Mets.
6.10 – Jack Flaherty (SP – STL)
Between the nature of this draft – where I could directly peek ahead to what I want to do in later rounds – and the number of mock drafts I have already completed, I see the value of Jack Flaherty in the sixth round, and I can’t ignore it. He already made strides in erasing a forgettable 2020 campaign, and he will play the entirety of the 2022 regular season at just 26 years old. He has plenty of growth ahead, and he has already shown signs of stardom.
There is enough buzz around Ketel Marte that he likely won’t be a sleeper or steal in most drafts. If that’s the case, then we should still be fine paying the asking price for one of the bright spots on the Arizona Diamondbacks – and someone eligible at second base, as well. He won’t dominate any single category, but he will help across the board.
8.10 – Giancarlo Stanton (OF – NYY)
While I am allowing myself to have the “Perfect Draft,” I can’t expect the “perfect season” or “perfect outcome.” This means that it’s unrealistic to select Giancarlo Stanton in the eighth round and ask him to play the entirety of the season at full health and deliver one of his best campaigns. That’s the reason why he is available in the eighth round, however, so I’ll buy into the potential at this point.
Yasmani Grandal is not a player who ends up on many of my teams, but largely because he tends to carry a premium for his dual-position eligibility and the upside of his bat. His average is quite low, but it fits with the norm of many catchers who would be slotted into a starting fantasy baseball roster. It’s the threat of home runs that allows him to provide value and, if he’s sitting on the draft board in the ninth round after I have already filled out a bulk of my lineup with some studs, I can close off my search for a catcher fairly early in the process.
10.10 – Jordan Romano (RP – TOR)
Even though it is a “Perfect Draft,” I can’t break rules and allow closers to remain available where I need them. I consciously chose to wait until the first tier or two passed me by, and now I can dive into the closer pool and address one of my team’s needs. Jordan Romano probably would have been selected by now just because of the nature of fantasy managers searching for saves but, if I had to pivot off Romano, I would. I simply don’t have to in this fictional world.
11.3 – Zac Gallen (SP – ARI)
It would be both disingenuous and flat-out wrong for me to write about the perfect combination of players and not include the one I draft almost everywhere — and have for the past two years. Zac Gallen remains a breakout candidate in waiting, and he showed some of his outstanding upside in the abbreviated 2020 season. He wasn’t able to sustain it through 2021, but I’ve been a buyer of his stock from the beginning, and I refuse to move away from it now. There’s no reason to think we’ve seen his best yet.
12.10 – Joey Gallo (OF – NYY)
I’m making concessions of batting average for the power that Joey Gallo brings to the table, but he can make such an impact on a fantasy lineup that I can’t ignore it. I don’t want to punt any category in a draft that I can mold to my liking, but I have to take the plunge and add Gallo’s bat in the 12th round.
13.3 – Mark Melancon (RP – ARI)
Much like Jordan Romano, Mark Melancon was a need for my roster, and I forced myself to take him and fill a void. Neither of my relief pitchers are lock-down stars, but both give me the opportunities to get saves, where I’m sure that I’ll offset some of their risk later in the draft with at least another bullpen arm.
14.10 – Matt Chapman (3B – OAK)
I spent a lot of time and mental energy struggling with how I would fill my third base position, but I ultimately went with a player who could deliver in a single category in a big way. Matt Chapman averages more than 30 home runs over a 162-game span, and I can potentially deal with the lack of batting average for the output he brings in the power department. It’s the same as Giancarlo Stanton and Joey Gallo — both selected earlier — so the only issue with my current approach is that I must find batting average in the later rounds. That adds some pressure, but there is plenty of time left to make it work.
15.3 – Blake Treinen (RP – LAD)
This was easy enough. I mentioned that I would want another closer, and Blake Treinen – pitching for a Los Angeles Dodgers team that had a .642 winning percentage or better in four of the last five years – is currently in line to get the saves. That’s all I need to know.
16.10 – John Means (SP – BAL)
John Means has firmly cemented himself as a top priority option for me, and I am going to keep drafting him throughout the preseason, even if it results in my paying a premium. His home ballpark has been modified to lower the home run potential of right-handed batters, and Means already moved back toward his career averages after a trying 2020 season. I’m all-in.
17.3 – Michael Brantley (OF – HOU)
Like John Means one pick prior, Michael Brantley has become a player I want to have on as many teams as possible. For this particular roster, Brantley helps alleviate some of the batting average concerns I have with the players already selected. He has value in almost any lineup, though, as he bats in the middle of a potent batting order for the Houston Astros and continues to deliver every year.
18.10 – Jean Segura (2B – PHI)
While I love the earlier pick of Ketel Marte, Jean Segura is a necessity as I continue to chase batting average and complete my team by filling in any statistical holes. The good news is that, if I were to play Segura regularly, Marte can remain in the lineup as an outfielder.
19.3 – Triston McKenzie (SP – CLE)
It feels like the fantasy baseball community is forgetting about the prospect pedigree of Triston McKenzie and I, for one, will not. He has delivered a strikeout rate of at least one-batter-per-inning in each of his first two seasons in Major League Baseball and, while his ERA bloated to nearly 5 last year, he is still developing. I want to be aggressive in acquiring him before his value rises too rapidly.
20.10 – Casey Mize (SP – DET)
Similar to Triston McKenzie from one pick ago, Casey Mize is entering his third season of Major League Baseball after being one of the top pitching prospects in the minor leagues. Mize’s career path — as short as it might be — went in the opposite direction as McKenzie’s, where Mize took large strides in 2021. He probably won’t pitch a complete season this year, but he should deliver some excellent performances if he were to truly build on the momentum from 2021.
21.3 – Raimel Tapia (OF – COL)
There have been plenty of hitting prospects to follow for the Colorado Rockies, but Raimel Tapia has stuck around for quite a while without ever fully emerging as an elite fantasy option. That has started to change over the last two seasons, where he batted a robust .321 in 2020 and then stole 20 bases the following year – with a more modest, but still respectable .273 average. He could be an outstanding sleeper.
22.10 – Devin Williams (RP – MIL)
While I focused most of my relief pitching attention on projected closers, I’ll round out my team with a player who can help my ERA and WHIP, even if that’s all he contributes. Devin Williams is the typical bullpen stud who is asked to shut down opponents for an inning, deliver a few strikeouts, and keep the possibility of a win alive. He did regress after an outrageous rookie season – where he had a 0.33 ERA! – but his “regression” still landed him in an excellent category. As long he isn’t taking away a roster space from a regular closer, Williams is a great add.
I wrote about it in the introduction, but it is worth repeating here: it’s important to practice with mock drafts so that you can get a feel for what you want to do with a team. In the mock drafts that I have already completed – which have also been turned into articles here at FantasyPros – I kept noticing how much happier I was with my teams when I spent my first pick on a top hitter and then immediately looked for starting pitching. So, I did the same here!
It’s truly impossible for me to not like the final roster because of how I could forecast my own decisions without the threat of losing a player. Still, the key was in the early moves of how and when to target certain positions, and it helped bring everything together in the end. Here is the final state of my roster:
C – Yasmani Grandal
1B – Pete Alonso
2B – Ketel Marte
3B – Matt Chapman
SS – Francisco Lindor
OF – Juan Soto
OF – Giancarlo Stanton
OF – Joey Gallo
UTIL – Michael Brantley
SP – Jacob deGrom
SP – Shane Bieber
SP – Jack Flaherty
SP – Zac Gallen
SP – John Means
RP – Jordan Romano
RP – Mark Melancon
RP – Blake Treinen
BN – Jean Segura
BN – Triston McKenzie
BN – Casey Mize
BN – Raimel Tapia
BN – Devin Williams
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