Welcome to Fantasy Baseball draft season! Wait… what? Are you insane!? Maybe. The rumors are true. I have already completed my first official 2023 Fantasy Baseball draft. Yes, it's completely irresponsible and I don't advise anybody to do the same. For those who might not know, I compete in quite a few high stakes leagues over at the National Fantasy Baseball Championship every season. In preparation of their big draft events, which take place in March, I like to do early slow drafts so that I can get a feel for player rankings and ADP movement. I try and limit myself to one slow draft per month from October through February before we get to the real thing.
The draft I just finished up is called "Draft Champions" and it's exactly how it sounds. The draft means everything. It's a 50-round draft with no waiver wire or trading in-season. All you have to do is set your lineup each week. The reason I can do about a handful of these throughout the offseason is that they're quite easy to manage within the season. You can almost think of these as really expensive mock drafts where I'm trying out different strategies to see what works for March. On top of being a 50-round draft, these are 15-team standard 5x5 Rotisserie leagues.
Since I'm doing these drafts regardless, I figured I'd turn it into content for those clamoring to get an idea for the 2023 player pool. Below you'll find the first four rounds of the draft with quick takeaways for each round followed by my complete team. I had the third overall pick in this snake draft.
Of course, I'll preface all of this with the fact that things are going to change… a lot. What you see below is not what you should expect come March. Again, this is more of a rough first draft like we had back in elementary school. Let's jump into the first round.
- Julio Rodriguez, OF, Mariners
- Trea Turner, 2B/SS, Dodgers
- My pick: Aaron Judge, OF, Yankees
- Ronald Acuna, OF, Braves
- Shohei Ohtani, DH/SP, Angels
- Jose Ramirez, 3B, Guardians
- Juan Soto, OF, Padres
- Bobby Witt, SS/3B, Royals
- Vladimir Guerrero, 1B, Blue Jays
- Kyle Tucker, OF, Astros
- Mookie Betts, OF, Dodgers
- Yordan Alvarez, OF, Astros
- Freddie Freeman, 1B, Dodgers
- Manny Machado, 3B, Padres
- Mike Trout, OF, Angels
The first thing that jumps out is Rodriguez first overall. I should have mentioned this earlier but these Draft Champions are also part of an overall prize with thousands of teams competing against each other. Drafters tend to lean into the upside plays and there's no doubt Rodriguez has a ton of it.
Judge fell to third overall, which was my pick. Yankees homer! I actually debated Judge and Acuña quite a bit, which might sound ridiculous considering the seasons they just had, but Acuña still possesses that first overall player upside. Plus, Judge has battled injuries in the past, is coming off a clear career year, and is a free agent.
Witt in the first round? Top-eight overall!? Again, he has immense upside and you don't have to factor in much growth. He just hit .254 with 20 home runs and 30 steals as a rookie. People used to throw around Trevor Story comps for Witt. He's already there.
If Mookie Betts keeps falling to 11th overall, I will have a bunch of him next season.
Unless you count Ohtani, not a single starting pitcher went in the first round of this draft. To put that in perspective, we had three starting pitchers go in the first round of NFBC ADP last season: Gerrit Cole, Corbin Burnes, and Walker Buehler. It's early but it seems like people might wait on pitching next year, much like Scott White and I surmised. More on that later.
- Gerrit Cole, SP, Yankees
- Bo Bichette, SS, Blue Jays
- Austin Riley, 3B, Braves
- Bryce Harper, OF, Phillies
- Corbin Burnes, SP, Brewers
- Rafael Devers, 3B, Red Sox
- Brandon Woodruff, SP, Brewers
- Sandy Alcantara, SP, Marlins
- Shane McClanahan, SP, Rays
- Michael Harris, OF, Braves
- Pete Alonso, 1B, Mets
- Edwin Diaz, RP, Mets
- My pick: Jose Altuve, 2B, Astros
- Dylan Cease, SP, White Sox
- Nolan Arenado, 3B, Cardinals
There you go. Six starting pitchers went in the second round. By my estimation, I believe any of them could finish as the overall SP1 in 2023, perhaps with an exception of Cease. He's uber-talented but the WHIP is a touch high.
Bichette might be a touch high but a monster final month got his season-long stat line back to respectability. We need him to run more and that sounds like a strong bet given the rule changes next season.
Michael Harris checks in as the 25th player off the board and how can you argue it in Roto? He just hit .297/.339/.514 with 19 home runs and 20 steals in just 114 games as a rookie.
Diaz in the second round!? Closer inflation has gone too far! Maybe. Once again, it's worth noting that there is no waiver wire in this league and predicting bullpens is nearly impossible. Getting one, if not two, lockdown closers in this format is a popular strategy.
I paired Altuve with Judge and looking back on it, perhaps it's a smidge early for Altuve. I took him over Arenado, Paul Goldschmidt, Francisco Lindor, Luis Robert, Randy Arozarena and Fernando Tatis. With that being said, Altuve just finished as a top-20 overall player in Roto, got back to running, and leads off for one of the best teams in baseball. The deciding factor for me was position scarcity. Second base is atrocious in Fantasy. If I can do it over, I might take Tatis seeing as how he could be back sooner than expected next season.
- Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Cardinals
- Spencer Strider, SP, Braves
- My pick: Emmanuel Clase, RP, Guardians
- Jordan Romano, RP, Blue Jays
- Francisco Lindor, SS, Mets
- Aaron Nola, SP, Phillies
- Josh Hader, RP, Padres
- Luis Robert, OF, White Sox
- Randy Arozarena, OF, Rays
- Julio Urias, SP, Dodgers
- J.T. Realmuto, C, Phillies
- Jacob deGrom, SP, Mets
- Raisel Iglesias, RP, Angels
- Adolis Garcia, OF, Rangers
- Liam Hendriks, RP, White Sox
Nine of the 15 picks in the third round were pitchers, including five projected closers. I actually took Clase for the reasons I mentioned earlier plus I believe he's earned the right to be drafted as a top-three closer next season.
Have fun ranking outfielders for 2023. It's a shallow position and I would like to grab a few early in drafts but differentiating who you want between Robert, Arozarena and Garcia seem like a tough task. Before you assume this is too early for Garcia, he was one of just four players to turn in 25 home runs and 25 steals this past season, joining Rodriguez, Tucker and Marcus Semien.
Valuing deGrom will be a hot topic this offseason, as will his free agency. There is smoke surrounding deGrom to the Braves but will Steve Cohen really let him leave the Mets? As for performance, deGrom was every bit the best pitcher in baseball when he was on the mound. The problem, again, is that he was on the mound for just 64.1 innings this year.
- Kyle Schwarber, OF, Phillies
- Max Scherzer, SP, Mets
- Ryan Pressly, RP, Astros
- Justin Verlander, SP, Astros
- Cedric Mullins, OF, Orioles
- Ozzie Albies, 2B, Braves
- Zack Wheeler, SP, Phillies
- Jazz Chisholm, 2B, Marlins
- Matt Olson, 1B, Braves
- Fernando Tatis, SS/OF, Padres
- Marcus Semien, SS/2B, Rangers
- Andres Gimenez, SS/2B, Guardians
- My pick: Starling Marte, OF, Mets
- Teoscar Hernandez, OF, Blue Jays
- Dansby Swanson, SS, Braves
Alright, there's a lot to unpack here. The biggest difference between this draft and future drafts will be pitcher valuation. Regardless of what you think of Scherzer, Verlander or Wheeler, they will be drafted earlier than this in every draft moving forward. The bigger point seems to be that most drafters feel comfortable waiting on pitching while gobbling up elite hitters early in the draft process.
Each of Albies, Chisholm, Tatis, Semien and Marte represent great value in 5x5 Roto and would be targets for me in the early rounds if they remain around this ADP. Marte was actually my pick in this round.
While both Gimenez and Swanson were great this past season, it seems early for both. Perhaps offseason research will prove they're worthy of these selections but that's my gut reaction. We also need to find out where Swanson will be playing in 2023.
Final Takeaways and Complete Roster
Many things will change. Perhaps my two main takeaways are that both pitching and Tatis will be on the rise. In standard leagues we'll see closers go a bit later while those elite starters will get pushed up the board. Regardless, I still think starting pitching is deep and my early plan is to wait and take my SP1 in the middle rounds.
You'll see that when examining my final roster below. I wound up with Shane Bieber and Joe Musgrove as my SP1 and SP2 in rounds five and six, respectively, which I love. I just don't think that type of value will remain. Perhaps I'm wrong. In fact I'm rooting to be wrong! I probably waited too long to nab a first baseman but you will always have a weakness in a 15-team league.
Alas, here is my roster. Remember, this is a 50-round draft with no waiver wire or trades. You need to make sure all your bases are covered. I'll typically wind up with 27-28 hitters and 22-23 pitchers. That breakdown usually looks something like this: four catchers, three of each infield position, 10-11 outfielders, 15-16 starting pitchers, seven or eight relievers.
Starting Pitchers – Shane Bieber, Joe Musgrove, George Kirby, Chris Bassitt, Alex Cobb, Michael Kopech, Drey Jameson, Drew Smyly, Kyle Hendricks, Simeon Woods-Richardson, Sixto Sanchez, Jake Junis, Gavin Williams, Kyle Freeland, Owen White