The 2019 MLB season is upon us.
Or it is for the Seattle Mariners and Oakland A's, at least, who get a head start on their campaigns with Wednesday and Thursday games in Japan. Opening Day for everyone else comes March 28.
That makes this cram-session time for the fantasy baseball world, as owners buckle down for their critical draft weekend. We're here to assist with said cramming with a 10-team first-round mock and a couple of key pieces of advice to take to your war room.
Fantasy Mock Draft
1. Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels
2. Mookie Betts, OF, Boston Red Sox
3. Jose Ramirez, 3B, Cleveland Indians
4. Nolan Arenado, 3B, Colorado Rockies
5. J.D. Martinez, OF, Boston Red Sox
6. Max Scherzer, SP, Washington Nationals
7. Jose Altuve, 2B, Houston Astros
8. Alex Bregman, 3B, Houston Astros
9. Christian Yelich, OF, Milwaukee Brewers
10. Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians
Pitching Is Deep, But You Need an Ace
Or two, if you can swing it.
As MLB teams get more concerned with workloads and more creative with their bullpen usage, there aren't nearly as many workhorses as there once were. If you're hoping for 200 strikeouts, a sub-3.00 ERA and a WHIP in the 1.10 neighborhood, you'll need to spend an early pick to make that happen.
Granted, our first-round mock only has one starter, but that's because Scherzer might be in a tier of his own. He's as steady as this position gets. He has pitched at least 200 innings in each of the past six seasons, never striking out fewer than 240 batters and only once having an ERA north of 3.00 (3.15, back in 2014).
But you should be ready to pounce on a different pitcher as soon as the second-round turn. That's where you should find the likes of Chris Sale, Jacob deGrom and/or Justin Verlander. By the end of the third round, there's a chance Corey Kluber, Aaron Nola, Blake Snell and Gerrit Cole are off the board, too.
If you're worried about offense, you can still go that direction with three or four of your first five picks. There will be valuable ways of rounding out your rotation in the middle rounds.
Make sure you get at least one starter you can rely on, though. That player type is drying up.
Cover As Many Categories As Possible
You know that steals specialist who might swipe 60 bags but also could hit in the low .200s with single-digit homers? Or that power source you're penciling in for 40 bombs and 100 RBI, but also zero stolen bases and an average that'll drag down that category?
You can draft those guys—just not anywhere near the first round.
Ideally, your top position player is at least a contributor in all five categories and a standout performer in three or more. That's why you're almost guaranteed to find both Trout and Betts going as the first two picks. Health permitting, you can bank on about 30 homers, 20 steals, 200 combined runs and RBI and an average near or north of .300.
There aren't many of those players around. But, to a lesser degree, that's the reason you're leaning on players like Bregman, Altuve and Yelich as opposed to, say, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, who might beef up your power categories but won't give you steals and could hurt you in average.
Memorize Your League Specifics
This is a simple piece of advice, but it probably isn't discussed enough.
Before entering your draft room, you should know the ins and outs of your league's rules and scoring systems. Player values and expected draft positions can vary widely because of them.
For instance, does your league use batting average or on-base percentage? That makes a huge difference to the value of Bryce Harper and Joey Gallo.
Do you just count saves, or are you crediting both saves and holds? If you want to pay a premium on elite closers, that might be fine in either format. But if it's a saves-plus-holds league, don't heavily invest draft picks or auction dollars in mid-tier options. You don't know how many mid-tier closers will even keep their jobs all season, and you might be surprised how many non-closers can give you 20-plus holds.
How many teams are involved? Do your lineups lock at the start of the week, or can you make daily changes? Is your scoring system built around points or rotisserie style? How many starting and bench spots do you have? What are the rules for the waiver wire?
These answers should all be easy to find, but if you skip that step, you're already at a disadvantage compared to your competitors.