Fantasy Baseball 2021 Mock Draft: Cheatsheet for 12-Team Format

Andrew Gould@AndrewGould4Featured ColumnistMarch 22, 2021

Fantasy Baseball 2021 Mock Draft: Cheatsheet for 12-Team Format

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    Trevor Story is worth a first-round pick in 2021 fantasy baseball drafts.
    Trevor Story is worth a first-round pick in 2021 fantasy baseball drafts.Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    Fantasy baseball draft prep has never contained more obstacles than in 2021.

    It's traditionally difficult enough to separate the legitimate breakouts and busts from flukes. When looking at numbers from a 60-game season with different rules, it's almost impossible.

    The designated hitter is no more in the National League, and schedules will expand beyond last season's geographical limitations. Those factors are tough enough to weigh before also worrying about small sample sizes.

    When in doubt, buy the established player coming off a down 2020 and fade the improbable short-season standout.

    This maze is too complicated for anyone to solve on their own, so let's share some rankings to guide the way. After that, it's also helpful to dive into a mock draft before the real thing. Going through a practice run may illustrate some necessary alterations to your cheatsheet and overall strategy.

    Given all of the extra puzzles to 2021 drafting, everyone will want to prepare as much as possible.


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    Ozzie Albies is a top second baseman in five-by-five fantasy formats.
    Ozzie Albies is a top second baseman in five-by-five fantasy formats.Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Some friendly reminders are necessary before copying off any cheatsheet.

    These rankings are made for a 12-team league using the standard five-by-five categories: batting average, home runs, RBI, runs and stolen bases for hitters; wins, saves, strikeouts, ERA and WHIP for pitchers.

    Anyone playing with different categories or in a point league must make significant adjustments. Brandon Nimmo looks a lot better in a league that substitutes batting average for on-base percentage. There's no reason to mess with Adalberto Mondesi and other one-dimensional speedsters in a points league, and closers are less valuable if combining saves and holds into one category. 

    Even if they're perfectly aligned for your league, don't draft blindly by rankings.

    If simply taking the highest player available at every turn, the following mock draft would be dangerously light on pitching. React accordingly to your draft room.

    View the full rankings here, including a top-350 overall and position-by-position breakdown.



    1. Ronald Acuna Jr. (OF - ATL)

    2. Mookie Betts (OF - LAD)
    3. Juan Soto (OF - WAS)
    4. Fernando Tatis Jr. (SS - SD)
    5. Mike Trout (OF - LAA)
    6. Trea Turner (SS - WAS)
    7. Jacob deGrom (SP - NYM)
    8. Trevor Story (SS - COL)
    9. Gerrit Cole (SP - NYY)
    10. Jose Ramirez (3B - CLE)
    11. Christian Yelich (OF - MIL)
    12. Freddie Freeman (1B - ATL)
    13. Shane Bieber (SP - CLE)
    14. Francisco Lindor (SS - NYM)
    15. Cody Bellinger (1B/OF - LAD)
    16. Bryce Harper (OF - PHI)
    17. Manny Machado (3B - SD)
    18. Yu Darvish (SP - SD)
    19. Xander Bogaerts (SS - BOS)
    20. Walker Buehler (SP - LAD)
    21. Lucas Giolito (SP - CHW)
    22. Bo Bichette (SS - TOR)
    23. Anthony Rendon (3B - LAA)
    24. DJ LeMahieu (1B/2B/3B - NYY)
    25. Trevor Bauer (SP - LAD)
    26. Max Scherzer (SP - WAS)
    27. Ozzie Albies (2B - ATL)
    28. Aaron Nola (SP - PHI)
    29. Alex Bregman (3B - HOU)
    30. Luis Castillo (SP - CIN)
    31. Rafael Devers (3B - BOS)
    32. Kyle Tucker (OF - HOU)
    33. Whit Merrifield (2B/OF - KC)
    34. Eloy Jimenez (OF - CHW)
    35. Adalberto Mondesi (SS - KC)
    36. Corey Seager (SS - LAD)
    37. Jack Flaherty (SP - STL)
    38. Tim Anderson (SS - CHW)
    39. Jose Abreu (1B - CHW)
    40. Clayton Kershaw (SP - LAD)
    41. Marcell Ozuna (OF - ATL)
    42. Starling Marte (OF - MIA)
    43. Brandon Woodruff (SP - MIL)
    44. George Springer (OF - TOR)
    45. Nolan Arenado (3B - STL)
    46. Luis Robert (OF - CHW)
    47. Zac Gallen (SP - ARI)
    48. Nelson Cruz (DH - MIN)
    49. Blake Snell (SP - SD)
    50. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (1B - TOR)

Mock Draft Results

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    Don't let Cody Bellinger fall too far following a disappointing 2020.
    Don't let Cody Bellinger fall too far following a disappointing 2020.Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    Let's test out these rankings in a mock draft. The following team was drafted against automated opponents using FantasyPros' Draft Wizard.

    This is a 12-team league assuming standard five-by-five categories and default Yahoo roster sizes and position eligibility rules. The latter point is particularly important, as Yahoo is rolling over all eligibility from 2019 regardless of games played in 2020.

    The simulator randomly assigned the 10th pick. Here's the final roster, with the full draft board available here.


    Draft Results

    C: Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Texas Rangers (19.226)

    1B: Cody Bellinger, Los Angeles Dodgers (2.15)

    2B: Ozzie Albies, Atlanta Braves (3.34)

    3B: Max Muncy, Los Angeles Dodgers (9.106)

    SS: Trevor Story, Colorado Rockies (1.10)

    OF: J.D. Martinez, Boston Red Sox (6.63)

    OF: Ketel Marte, Arizona Diamondbacks (7.82)

    OF: Michael Brantley, Houston Astros (13.154)

    UT: Franmil Reyes, Cleveland (11.130)

    UT: Dylan Carlson, St. Louis Cardinals (16.183)


    SP: Brandon Woodruff, Milwaukee Brewers (4.39)

    SP: Lance Lynn, Chicago White Sox (5.58)

    RP: Edwin Diaz, New York Mets (8.87)

    RP: Taylor Rogers, Minnesota Twins (15.178)

    P: Jesus Luzardo, Oakland Athletics (10.111)

    P: Kevin Gausman, San Francisco Giants (12.135)

    P: Aaron Civale, Cleveland (14.159)

    P: John Means, Baltimore Orioles (18.207)


    BN: Justin Turner, Los Angeles Dodgers (17.202)

    BN: Greg Holland, Kansas City Royals (20.231)

    BN: Carlos Santana, Kansas City Royals (21.250)

    BN: Yusei Kikuchi, Seattle Mariners (22.255)

    BN: Jordan Montgomery, New York Yankees (23.274)

Team Strengths

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    Michael Brantley is one of MLB's most reliable contact hitters.
    Michael Brantley is one of MLB's most reliable contact hitters.Ashley Landis/Associated Press


    Although this team isn't perfect, there also aren't any glaring holes that can't be remedied with in-season management.

    Trevor Story, Cody Bellinger and Ozzie Albies are all five-category stars at their finest. They're the perfect building blocks for a well-rounded approach, especially since it's easier to fill Yahoo's outfield with only three starters and relaxed eligibility requirements. 

    Balance isn't limited to just statistical production. It's also important to mix your squad with steady contributors and high-upside options.

    Michael Brantley, Justin Turner and Carlos Santana are boring veterans who will get the job done when healthy. However, they won't spearhead a championship squad in such a shallow league.

    Dylan Carlson, on the other hand, is the perfect post-hype prospect capable of delivering substantial five-category production in his first full season. Although coming off an underwhelming 2020, Franmil Reyes is capable of leading MLB in home runs.

    After passing on the true top-shelf aces, Lance Lynn was the perfect complement to Brandon Woodruff. Although his ceiling is limited, the 33-year-old could be one of few hurlers (if not the only one) to reach the increasingly elusive 200-inning benchmark in 2021. He's a set-and-forget workhorse in an otherwise uncertain staff.


    Batting Average

    FantasyPros projects this squad to lead the league in batting average. Looking at the roster, it's easy to see why.

    Consistent contact hitters—particularly veterans—tend to get overlooked in drafts. For little cost, Brantley and Turner should each hit around .300 in the heart of a championship-caliber lineup.

    Even J.D. Martinez had batted above .300 in each of the last four seasons before dipping to .213 last season. Expect a bounce-back in a closer-to-normal season where he'll have use of in-game video.

    Ketel Marte probably won't replicate his 2019 power outburst, but the bat-to-ball skills are legit. He's hit .319 over the last two seasons (trailing only DJ LeMahieu and Tim Anderson) with a 13.0 percent strikeout rate.

    Max Muncy is the only clear batting-average liability, but there are plenty of other contact savants to enjoy his pop and multi-position eligibility.

Team Weaknesses

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    This pitching staff will need Kevin Gausman to sustain his recent improvements.
    This pitching staff will need Kevin Gausman to sustain his recent improvements.Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    Unreliable Rotation?

    FantasyPros isn't impressed with the pitching staff, projecting 38 total points with ERA and WHIP standing out as problem areas.

    That's a byproduct of taking Lynn's durability instead of a higher start-by-start ceiling from Stephen Strasburg or Corbin Burnes. It also means the projections aren't big fans of secondary starters Kevin Gausman, Aaron Civale and John Means.

    And that's where we'll have to agree to disagree.

    Since the start of 2019, Gausman has collected 193 strikeouts in 162 innings. He relied less on his inconsistent four-seam fastball in favor of his splitter and changeup in the shortened 2020, leading to a 3.62 ERA, 3.09 FIP and 15.2 percent swinging-strike rate.

    Civale went the opposite direction, following a 2.34 ERA in 10 exceptional 2019 starts with a 4.73 ERA last season. Most of the damage occurred when surrendering eight runs in his season-finale. He still drew more swinging strikes and strikeouts with fewer walks while working at least six frames in all but one turn.

    Means, meanwhile, threw his four-seamer a full two mph faster in 2020. He recorded a 0.98 WHIP with 42 strikeouts and seven walks in 10 starts spanning 43.2 innings.

    This isn't a loaded rotation on paper, but there's plenty of potential behind staff anchors Woodruff and Lynn. However, there's also some risk reflected in the projections.


    Mid-Pack HR and SB Projections

    The projections suggest this lineup could use a bit more power and speed, estimating a sixth-place finish in both home runs and stolen bases.

    That's only looking at a starting lineup, and FantasyPros took the liberty of replacing Carlson with Turner in the second utility spot. Perhaps the takeaway here is that the Dodgers third baseman was an unnecessary luxury pick given the lineup's contact skills.

    While plenty of players (Story, Albies, Bellinger, Marte, Carlson, Kiner-Falefa) are capable of poaching double-digit bags, only Story has exceeded 15 in a single season. In hindsight, it would have made more sense to roll the dice on Garrett Hampson or Ramiel Tapia instead of Santana.

    Yet power should not be a major concern if Bellinger, Martinez and Muncy rebound to pre-2020 norms. Reyes could also make this concern moot by approaching the 37 homers he swatted in 2019.


    Note: All advanced statistics are courtesy of FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.