Fantasy Baseball Consensus First-Round Draft Picks & Notes (2023)
The 2023 fantasy baseball season will be here before we know it. That means it’s time for you to prepare for your fantasy baseball drafts. Beyond our draft prep articles and mock draft simulator, we will have you covered with 2023 fantasy baseball rankings. You can find our updated 2023 fantasy baseball expert consensus rankings here. Check out who the experts are selecting in the first round, along with notes for each player.
2023 Fantasy Baseball First-Round Picks
A lot of 2023 draft boards will have Aaron Judge at the top of them, and there is no doubt he belongs there after his record-setting 2022. He famously broke the A.L. Home Run record with 62, scoring 133 runs, driving in 131, and stealing 16 bases to boot. His slash line was an other-worldly .311/.425/.686 with an xwOBA of .463 and wRC+ of 207. The reason he may fall out of the 1.1 slot on draft day is simply fantasy managers anticipating the regression that is likely to come. Steamer projections have him at 43/109/104 for the upcoming season, and his ratios should see a small decline as well. Other concerns include the fact that Judge will be 31 years old for the majority of the season and played in a career-high 157 games last year. What is not of concern are the 81 games he gets to play at Yankee Stadium this year and each one after until 2031, thanks to his 9-year, $360 million free-agent contract. Judge is the guy if fantasy managers want to shore up their slugging early. Just beware that his numbers might look much closer to 2021 than 2022.
Trea Turner cashed in on his elite speed/power combination and signed an 11-year, $300 million contract to join the reigning National League Champion Philadelphia Phillies. The 29-year-old scored 101 runs and tallied 100 RBI, often batting behind Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman in L.A. Fantasy managers shouldn’t expect a repeat RBI performance, given that he is almost assuredly going to bat leadoff in Philly, but repeating a 20 HR/100 R season is likely as Citizens Bank plays well to right-handed power. Where Turner catapults to No. 1 is the addition of stolen bases. He had 27 of them in 2022, but if the new baserunning rules indeed make it easier to run, his elite 24.7 ft/sec sprint speed could see him flirt with 40 in 2023. Philly has no problem letting their guys run (ranked seventh in SB attempts), and they’re not going to lock up their new toy on arrival. Draft him and enjoy.
3) Ronald Acuna Jr. (ATL – DH/OF)
Ronald Acuna Jr. appeared in 119 games last year, a significantly higher number than the original projection of a July return from his torn ACL injury. Indeed, the 25-year-old came back in late April, immediately began stealing bases, and rewarded fantasy managers who used a high draft pick on him. While his slugging percentage was down significantly, a lot of that can be attributed to working back from the injury. His EV and HardHit% certainly showed no signs of slowing down, and he remains an on-base machine batting at the top of a fearsome lineup. Acuna should return to his former self with the extra time post-surgery. Fantasy managers can draft him with confidence.
Jose Ramirez remains criminally underrated, considering his productivity remains fantasy relevant across categories. Building on his outstanding 2021 season, he was one home run away from his third career 30/20 season (29/20). The list of third basemen capable of that feat stands at one unless Bobby Witt has 3B eligibility in your league. Ramirez ended up with 90 runs, 126 RBI, and slashed .280/.355/.514 while surrounded in the lineup by some young, inexperienced players who matured as the season progressed. The only statistical knock on the 30-year-old has been two straight years of decreasing wOBA, but that’s splitting hairs with it sitting in the .360 range even after the “decline.” Ramirez did have UCL repair in November, but there is no doubt he will be ready to go for Spring Training. While you shouldn’t overlook him, you can certainly hope your league mates do.
Julio Rodriguez led the 2022 youth movement throughout MLB, skipping Triple-A to win Rookie of the Year with 29 of 30 first-place votes and electrifying the crowd at the HR Derby in July. He contributed across all batting categories, slugging 28 HR with 75 RBI, 84 runs, and 25 stolen bases. His slash line was impressive at .284/.345/.509 with a wOBA of .366. He missed time in the middle of the season with a finger injury he incurred while stealing a base, or he would have probably joined the 30/30 Club. His K% (25.9) and BB% (7.1) need improvement, but at age 22, he has plenty of time to work on these numbers. Fantasy managers can deal with those considering he is above the 90th percentile in Avg EV, Max EV, HardHit%, barrel%, outs above avg, and sprint speed. Making a case for him to go 1.1 in 2023 drafts isn’t difficult.
The “Free Kyle Tucker” movement didn’t garner the momentum fantasy managers were hoping for as he continued to bat in the sixth spot way too often. However, the 25-year-old smashed 30 HR with 107 RBI, 71 runs, and 25 stolen bases in 2022 en route to another World Series win for the Astros. His ratios were down across the board, but he improved his K% and BB% and suffered from some bad luck with BABIP. These should correct to be nearer to his baseline, in which case fantasy managers are drafting a 30/20 guy with high on-base skills who bats smack in the middle of what is, essentially, an All-Star team. In traditional 5×5 leagues, he can anchor any fantasy outfield you put him in.
7) Yordan Alvarez (HOU – OF/DH)
Some players have power, whereas Yordan Alvarez has POWER. The 25-year-old ranks in the 100th percentile in average EV, HardHit%, xwOBA, xBA, xSLG, and Barrel% while coming in the 99th percentile in MaxEV. He has power to all fields, bats in the middle of a World Champion lineup, and will protect your ratios in traditional 5×5 leagues and those with advanced categories. Really, unless you are playing in a stolen base premium league, Alvarez offers little downside heading into 2023. (Those downsides are only injury concerns (he played in 135 games last year), and his outfield eligibility will probably expire after this season.) The four-category stud is worth a first-round pick.
Heading into the season, Juan Soto is the leading candidate for Comeback Player of the Year, which feels ridiculous to say about a guy who still ended with a WAR of 5.2. The first half of 2022 found him in a terrible lineup, so opposing pitchers walked him 95 times in 436 plate appearances. Reports also surfaced that he had turned down a 15-year, $440 million offer from Washington, and soon, the HR Derby winner headed to San Diego with expectations as big as the contract he turned down. He struggled with the Padres, slashing .236/.388/.390 with only six homers and 16 RBI in 52 games, but he also took a trip to the NLCS. Fantasy managers can expect a course correction in 2023, somewhere in the vicinity of 30+ HR, 110+ RBI, and an elite .400+ OBP. With the addition of Xander Bogaerts, the return of Fernando Tatis, Jr., and the presence of Manny Machado, this is a real-life team you want multiple pieces of in fantasy. Soto is worth every penny of a top draft pick.
9) Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (TOR – 1B/DH)
Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., took a step back in 2022, which was expected once he got out of the bandbox parks of Dunedin and Buffalo. He continued to smash the ball, sitting in the 90th percentile in avgEV, MaxEV, and HardHit%. It is somewhat concerning that his K% went up while his BB% went down, but the slight drop in counting stats is projected to normalize back to his 35/100/100 levels. While the fifth-year player probably isn’t going to gift fantasy managers with double-digit steals, Guerrero can keep four categories and all ratios afloat, allowing you to build around that foundation. Be prepared to grab him on the turn at the end of Round 1.
10) Mookie Betts (LAD – 2B/OF)
As Mookie Betts enters his age-30 season, there is some expected decline in a few areas (fly ball rate increased but led to a lower ground ball EV/BABIP). Still, his elite on-base skills continue to increase his value in fantasy leagues, especially considering that he bats leadoff in one of the most explosive lineups in baseball. He played in 142 games in 2022, batting first in the lineup in all of them. It is difficult to predict what effect the new running rules will have on his SB total, but fantasy managers can safely count on 10-15 in this area. However, his 30+ HR, 100+ runs, and solid advanced metrics will contribute across the board, and he is worthy of a late first-round pick. The fact that Dave Roberts might deploy him enough at 2B to give him that eligibility is just icing.
11) Shohei Ohtani (LAA – SP/DH)
This is your annual reminder to ensure you know how Shohei Ohtani‘s pitcher/hitter eligibility is treated in your league(s), as it can make a world of difference in fantasy value. What it will not make a difference in, however, is his incredible talent on the field. His fifth season in MLB saw a slight decline in hitting stats (34 HR, 95 RBI, .273/.356/.519) (and yes, that was a decline). However, he threw 166 innings, struck out 219 batters, and maintained a 2.33 ERA and 1.01 WHIP to finish fourth in Cy Young voting. The Angels have stated they plan to pitch Ohtani every sixth day as regularly as possible, meaning he could conceivably get 28-30 starts in addition to 600 plate appearances. On top of all of that, he is in his walk year and will be auditioning for what will surely be a huge contract. Yes, he clogs your Utility spot, and it can be frustrating to manage him in weekly leagues where he can only start as one or the other. But if you play on a platform where he is counted as both at all times, he is the fantasy 1.1, no matter who they give the real-life MVP to.
12) Freddie Freeman (LAD – 1B)
After a volatile offseason that saw him sign with the Dodgers, Freddie Freeman settled in and got to work being the hitting machine fantasy managers have come to know and love. While his HR total dropped to 21, his runs (117), RBI (100), and SB (13) kept him in the fantasy MVP conversation. What we really love, though, are his ratios. He may not duplicate his .325/.407/.511 line again, his three-year average of .312/.415/.563 says that range is possible with his elite skills. Ranking in the 90th percentile in K%, BB%, and xwOBA is all you need to know to feel confident in grabbing the 33-year-old in the second round.
Other top picks:
- Corbin Burnes (MIL – SP)
- Mike Trout (LAA – OF)
- Gerrit Cole (NYY – SP)
- Bobby Witt Jr. (KC – 3B/SS)
- Manny Machado (SD – 3B)
Below you’ll find rankings from our analysts to help you prepare for the 2023 fantasy baseball season.
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 – that optimizes your picks with expert advice – we’ve got you covered this fantasy baseball draft season.
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