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Draft Strategy: Focusing on Hitters Early (2023 Fantasy Baseball)

by Dan Tursky | @Tan_Dursky | Featured Writer
Feb 11, 2023
Mookie Betts

Everyone loves a good offensive showing in baseball, and as games are driven by hot-hitting performances, so are fantasy teams. There is no doubt that efficiency in selecting the correct hitters for a fantasy-baseball team directly correlates to winning a championship. Carefully assembling a team of upside hitters while still being able to put together an entire roster of productivity is truly an art that only the top percentage of managers will be able to accomplish.

Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit

Focusing on Hitters Early (2023 Fantasy Baseball)

Let’s take a look at some reasons to prioritize hitters early in drafts this year.

Hitters versus Pitchers

The most successful fantasy teams will need a variety of both effective position players coupled with pitching that can carry them across the course of a season. The 2023 fantasy landscape is looking like quite a challenge in regards to being able to accomplish such a feat. A few annual (and sometimes obvious) reasons to lean toward hitters early in drafts for the looming campaign:

  • Starting pitchers, while essential for high-end scoring, only pitch once every five days on average. Conversely, a top-tier hitting talent is likely to provide multi-category scoring throughout the course of a week.
  • In a standard fantasy roster construction, there are more hitter-required positions to be filled than there are for pitchers.
  • Positional scarcity can lead to an extreme shortage of hitters as fantasy drafts progress.
  • Typically, there are values to be had in pitchers later in drafts than there are hitters.
  • As mentioned here earlier this offseason, the removal of the fielding shift in 2023 and beyond could improve hitting production substantially.

The Infield/Outfield Landscape

This year looks to be quite unique positionally. Starting with the outfield, many sites have at least six of the top-10 picks (if not more) listed as outfielders, all of which are true MLB superstars. Aaron Judge, Juan Soto, Ronald Acuna Jr., Yordan Alvarez, Mike Trout, Julio Rodriguez, Shohei Ohtani, and Mookie Betts all top this list, and rightfully so. Shortly after that, you can find the likes of 2022 breakout fantasy stars such as Kyle Tucker and Kyle Schwarber.

Here is the concern, and this is not hyperbole, there is a massive drop off in outfield talent following the list of aforementioned game-breakers The drop looks to be that of a Tier 1 to Tier 3 or 4 while skipping right over any sort of sound or confident round 2 of available outfielders.

Some of the very next names available following Tucker and Schwarber: Michael Harris II, Bryan Reynolds, Randy Arozarena, Cedric Mullins, and George Springer.

These players are quite the fall from the upper-echelon tier seen in the first round of fantasy drafts. The consensus looks to be this- take a stud outfielder in the first round almost no matter what, and circle back to fill remaining OF positions as early as possible in 2023 drafts. The dearth at the position overall is undeniable, so managers that have production in all three spots will be at a major advantage this season.

On the flip side, infield availability is looking as prosperous as ever. When it comes to drafting hitters early in drafts, though the priority should be looking toward the outfield, there are always going to be tempting infield options as well.

Some of the biggest names in the sport a la Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Jose Ramirez, Trea Turner, and Freddie Freeman all top the infield ranks in a grouping immersed with talent. That said, given what we know about the outfield outlook, it may make sense to wait on these guys a bit longer.

There is some legitimate steals potential to be had in the mid-rounds of fantasy drafts for infield talent. Many big-time names and productive bats are currently falling between rounds four and six such as Jazz Chisolm Jr. (ADP 49), Ozzie Albies (ADP 50), Corey Seager (ADP 55), and Alex Bregman (ADP 61). Looking even further down the list there is a plethora of later-round selections that could end up being the single-handed difference on championship-winning teams: Wander Franco (ADP 85), Jose Abreu (ADP 104), Jeremy Pena (ADP 121), and Matt Chapman (ADP 146).

The takeaway from this information is that, while it is certainly beneficial to draft specific hitters early, there is merit to fading particular positions ahead of others. The second and third rounds of drafts actually seem to be a great time to load up on high-end starting pitching, assuming you were able to snag a top outfielder in round one. Rounds four through six seem like an ideal time to begin filling up those infield slots with some of these value names.

Conclusion

Drafting hitters early on in fantasy drafts is undoubtedly important, but not nearly as important as securing the correct hitters. The key for any manager, of course, is to build a well-rounded team that retains value at every position. Specific strategies when drafting will drive these results. 2023 will emphasize hitting more than seasons past, given numerous rule changes being implemented for the first time. Take advantage of these changes by loading up on specific hitting early, and reaping the benefits in the long run.

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.


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