Fantasy Baseball Mock Draft: 12-Team, Early Pick (2023)
Every season presents a new opportunity for how to attack a specific draft. In many of the prior years, a top-three pick carried the possibility of reaching for a starting pitcher — e.g. Clayton Kershaw, Jacob deGrom, Gerrit Cole — if you wanted to solidify getting ahead of the pack. 2023 does not follow that same format. This is one of the rare seasons in which it simply isn’t worth it to slide a starting pitcher into a top-three pick.
This actually isn’t an indictment on high-end pitching. It’s a testament to how strong the options are later in the draft. Of course, we can’t wait too long before we start to build out a rotation, but the purpose of a mock draft is to get a feel for how a team can come together by making specific decisions. With a top-three pick, this decision will be to start with a foundational hitter and see what we could build from there.
12-Team Fantasy Baseball Mock Draft Results
The lineup for this 12-team draft is C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, 3 OF, UTIL, 2 SP, 2 RP, 4 P, 5 BN, and it was conducted using FantasyPros’ Draft Simulator.
1.3: Ronald Acuna , Jr. (OF – ATL)
It feels like there’s no wrong answer with the third overall pick, but I have seen enough opportunities to fill my shortstop position later. Therefore, I will reluctantly pass on Trea Turner and select a legitimate option to be the top overall fantasy player in Ronald Acuna, Jr. Once again, this is one of the first times I can remember where I wouldn’t even think about a pitcher, so you could basically slot in any player except Jose Ramirez and Aaron Judge — who went first and second, respectively — into this spot and go from there.
Others Considered: Trea Turner
2.10: Paul Goldschmidt (1B – STL)
In sticking with my plan, I want to avoid starting pitcher for one more pick, and one of the reasons is that I make another selection shortly. There is a risk that at least one of the two managers drafting between this pair of picks takes two starting pitchers, but there are five on my list, and while I won’t get my preferred target, I will get someone. That leaves me in a great setup to take Paul Goldschmidt and his steady production at a first base position that is surprisingly more difficult to fill than it has been in the past.
Others Considered: Jacob deGrom, Sandy Alcantara, Aaron Nola
3.3: Jacob deGrom (SP – TEX)
Amazingly, all four picks that followed my last one were starting pitchers. It was as if the two computer-generated fantasy managers were daring me to navigate around my own words. Rest assured, there were enough arms to go around, and even though this particular arm has been injured in the past, it is arguably the best when healthy. I’ll take Jacob deGrom, even with a likely ceiling of 25 starts, over almost anyone else in the league.
Others Considered: Spencer Strider
4.10: Josh Hader (RP – SD)
I’ve written about it in countless articles and mock drafts, but I find that it is more difficult to fill the closer position in a snake draft than in auctions — at least, at this time of year, where it might change as we are in the final days before the regular season and we have some clarity. Once again, I will be making two picks in a short span, so I will use the first on Josh Hader and start my bullpen with a strikeout wizard ready for a bounce-back season.
Others Considered: Shane Bieber
5.3: Luis Robert (OF – CWS)
One of the reasons why I perform so many mock drafts is because I can get a sense of my own biases. I tend to take starting pitching again around this part of the draft — after obviously trying to fill my SP1 in one of the first three rounds — but I have seen plenty of examples where the remainder of the draft is full of pitchers I would gladly add at a discount. I will learn from my earlier mistakes and forgo another pitcher here, opting instead for Luis Robert. If he and Acuna can play to their projections, then my first two outfielders will be contributing to basically every category.
Others Considered: Shane Bieber, Julio Urias
6.10: Zac Gallen (SP – ARI)
And this is why I am glad that I waited. Zac Gallen is a starting pitcher. I always target and draft when I can. He has consistently improved throughout his young career, and he is finally valued properly in the sixth round. Welcome back to my squad.
Others Considered: Yu Darvish
7.3: Wander Franco (SS – TB)
We’re about to see another reason why I have been more careful about filling certain positions, thanks to my time with other mock drafts. One of the shortstops who I would love to add to as many teams as possible is Wander Franco. He won’t lead the league in home runs, but he will produce everywhere else and still has plenty of upside ahead of him.
Others Considered: Tim Anderson
8.10: Tyler O’Neill (OF – STL)
It was only a matter of time before Tyler O’Neill ended up on my team. Basically, he has been a mainstay in almost every mock draft I have done, as well as every article I have written. The reasoning is simple. He has an extremely high ceiling mixed with a shaky floor. I find it a worthwhile risk to add him to my team at his current ADP, and if that starts to change, then I might rethink it.
Others Considered: Christian Yelich
9.3: Clayton Kershaw (SP – LAD)
I didn’t necessarily draft Clayton Kershaw because I mentioned him in the introduction as formerly worthy of a top-three pick, but I loved the fact that I was able to add him in the ninth round here. The reality is that my team is hitter-heavy, and, while I could use more wins, I simply can’t turn away from the per-game excellence that Kershaw brings to the table. It’s obvious that staying healthy is his biggest hurdle, but I’m willing to risk this pick for his potential.
Others Considered: Luis Severino
10.10: Clay Holmes (RP – NYY)
Had I not taken a starting pitcher with my last pick, I would have considered looking ahead to a closer. I didn’t want to make that move, though, and I was willing to fall into the best available option in the tenth round. Enter Clay Holmes. This helps me avoid making more drastic moves later, but I can also remain on the lookout for saves if they happen to appear in front of me.
Others Considered: Kris Bryant
11.3: Kris Bryant (OF – COL)
I don’t love filling my utility spot with an outfielder this early in the draft because it means that I have limited flexibility in the one position that can have multiple players. Unfortunately, my roster has needed a boost in power for the last few rounds, and, again, I’m willing to take a calculated risk on an oft-injured player who had once been excellent. Kris Bryant is a former MVP who averages 30 home runs for every 162 games played and has Colorado’s hitter-haven as a home ballpark.
Others Considered: George Kirby
12.10: Matt Chapman (3B – TOR)
A few rounds ago, when looking at my team’s needs, it was clear that I needed power and a third baseman. At that time, I targeted Matt Chapman as a future pick. Thankfully, he was still available when I wanted to take the plunge, and I can now add him as the perfect fit to this roster.
Others Considered: Jorge Polanco
13.3: Chris Bassitt (SP – TOR)
This is disappointing. Right before committing to Chapman with my earlier pick, I considered how much I also needed a second baseman with some power. Jorge Polanco was that player. Had he lasted just a few more picks, he would have been on my team. Instead, I will continue addressing my relative lack of starting pitching and add Chapman’s new teammate in, Chris Bassitt. He should give this team a nice uptick in wins which would offset some of my earlier picks, who might not have the same longevity but are likely better with their ratio statistics of ERA and WHIP.
Others Considered: Freddy Peralta
14.10: Pablo Lopez (SP – MIN)
Now that filling my second base need is on my mind, I am tempted to go with Brandon Lowe in this spot. The problem? I would prefer to wait and then take Ketel Marte in a few picks. That savings can only help me if I use it wisely, so I will add another starting pitcher who can provide stability in Pablo Lopez. If nothing else, I am closing the gap between my hitters and my pitchers.
Others Considered: Brandon Lowe
15.3: Ketel Marte (2B – ARI)
There’s a decent chance that the aforementioned Ketel Marte would have been available with one of my next picks, but I’m sliding him up my priority list so that I can take the next-best closer available in the following round. It will be Marte here so that I can fill my second base role with someone that was once highly regarded as a top option at the position.
Others Considered: Andres Munoz
16.10: Jon Gray (SP – TEX)
It looks like I miscalculated where the next group of relief pitchers was going to be taken, as that answer was… this past set of picks. I will have to change my approach, accept that I could have waited on Marte, and plan to put off adding another relief pitcher for even longer than I thought. There will be some available later. For now, I’ll add more strikeouts in the form of Jon Gray.
Others Considered: Javier Baez
17.3: Ryan Mountcastle (1B – BAL)
I’m at the point of the draft where I can start to add depth to my team in the form of bench players or close out a few openings such as catcher or, as I continue to write, relief pitchers. I’ll go with the first approach, as Ryan Mountcastle has simply sat on the draft board for too long. He’s a solid player that can cover any risk that would come from my second-round pick of Goldschmidt suffering an injury.
Others Considered: Javier Baez
18.10: Kyle Finnegan (RP – WSH)
I’ll make it easy on myself. I have been writing about taking a closer for the past few rounds, and it finally seems like the value is appropriate for my pick. Kyle Finnegan is one of the few remaining relief pitchers in this draft expected to get the first look at saves, so that’s where I’ll go with this pick.
Others Considered: Giovanny Gallegos
19.3: Javier Baez (SS – DET)
Over the past few years, I have written countless articles about the heavy regression Javier Baez was likely to experience, largely due to an incredibly high strikeout rate. He has remained off my radar since then, and I do not regret this decision. There is, however, a time and place to draft a player who is simply too valuable to ignore. That is Baez in the 19th round — especially since I considered him in the last few rounds. He will be another bat on my bench that could slide in if needed — or if he returns to the form we saw years ago.
Others Considered: Danny Jansen
20.10: Cody Bellinger (OF – CHC)
With three picks remaining, I am committing to spending the final one on a catcher — I usually do this unless I found one worth paying a premium in the early rounds. That means my two picks in this tight range will round out my bench. I’ll split them between hitting and pitching — possibly a relief pitcher — and aim for upside with both. I almost went with Josh Jung, but I simply love the sneaky potential of Cody Bellinger. He’s a former league MVP who has changed teams where a new opportunity could help him. If he can regain some of his former power, Bellinger would likely serve as one of the best sleeper picks of the year.
Others Considered: Josh Jung
21.3: Giovanny Gallegos (RP – STL)
When it came down to it, I simply wanted another relief pitcher on my bench who could slide into my lineup even if he isn’t getting saves. Giovanny Gallegos is simply one of the better bullpen arms out there, and he helps round out a pitching staff that isn’t top-heavy but should hold its own over the course of the season.
Others Considered: Seranthony Dominguez
22.10: Elias Diaz (C – COL)
There’s nothing fancy about this pick. I had decided to wait until the last round to find my catcher, and it was simply a matter of preference. Yasmani Grandal had been a decent performer in the past, but I preferred Elias Diaz playing in Colorado with the best opportunity to not sink my team’s decent batting average.
Others Considered: Yasmani Grandal
The key to repeatedly performing mock drafts is to learn, and I definitely used my prior experience for a better outcome with this team. I landed a grade of “A” with a 94 out of 100, and it played out exactly as I would have expected. It started with the top-three pick of a hitter — again, there was no consideration for a pitcher in that spot — and a foundation was laid immediately.
Perhaps the most surprising result of this draft is that the system ultimately ranked my pitchers slightly higher than my hitters. That’s another piece of evidence showing that we can wait on pitching a little more this season compared to prior years. It also helped that I prioritized relief pitchers at one point, even selecting a non-closer in Gallegos.
In the end, it looks like an early pick in this year’s draft will allow for an excellent starting point. That’s obviously common for most drafts, but the only tough decision to make in this case is about which hitter to take instead of which player.
More Mock Drafts
- 12-Team, Early Pick
- 12-Team, Early Pick (Wait on Pitcher)
- 12-Team, Middle Pick
- 12-Team, Late Pick
- 10-Team, Middle Pick
- 10-Team, Late Pick
- 10-Team, Roto League
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Mario Mergola is a featured writer at FantasyPros and BettingPros and the creator and content editor of Sporfolio. For more from Mario, check out his archive and follow him @MarioMergola.