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The best players in each round of 2021 fantasy baseball drafts

Heath talks up his favorite guys by round, per recent NFBC ADP.

USA Today/Pete Rogers Illustrations

What follows are my favorite picks from each round, at least per current NFBC Draft Champions ADP (March 8th through March 25th if you care about the specific sort). It’s a more freeing way of doing a “my guys” post. In truth, there are players I like that I haven’t been able to draft much for one reason or another this year. For a myriad of real life reasons, I’ve only done four drafts at NFBC so far, for reference. I also spent a lot of my time researching our positional weeks here at Fake Teams—you can locate all of that goodness from our entire team of writers by accessing our FREE(!) fantasy baseball draft guide.

I have one more draft to complete—the WORLD FAMOUS Fake Teams and Friends league. Related, if you’re feeling froggy and think you want to take on our stable of 10 fake teamers, drop a comment on this post and we may have a spot for you!

Anyway, hopefully some of the players on this list that I’ve missed will find themselves onto my last roster of the year. Given how late it is in draft season, ’ll try to include some information on each guy that is worthy of your time. Or at the very least, if you’ve drafted some of these guys already, at least you’ll get some happy confirmation bias...right?

Round 1, pick 10: Jose Ramirez, Cleveland Indians

If we’re talking KDS strategy, I’m just fine with the 10-spot as my top option. I’m happy with any of the top three starters—though I prefer deGrom—but I’m also stoked to begin any draft with Ramirez’s epic power/speed combo at the hot corner. Third base is a deep one this year, but it’s not deep with guys who offer homers AND stolen bases.

Round 2, pick 17: Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals

Boring 35/15 production with tons of counting stats? And upside for more, because he’s still just 28 years old. Sign me up for Harper in Round 2. I live to draft players with a massive floor. Harper is the epitome of an early floor pick, and he obviously gets a massive boost in OBP formats if you play that way.

Round 3, pick 38: Tim Anderson, Chicago White Sox

Fresh off of the MLB and AL batting title in 2019 (.335 BA), all Anderson did in 2020 was slash .322/.357/.529—with 10 homers and five swipes in just 49 games. If you assumed a full slate of games for Anderson, the easy math gives him a shot at a 30/20 season. Do I think he’ll crack 30 dingers? Likely not. But can he have a monster season for that loaded Chicago lineup, and go 20/20? Absolutely. He’s my favorite shortstop buy in 2021, as generally the ninth one off the boards. I think that’s robbery.

Round 4, pick 48: Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Toronto Blue Jays

The poster-boy for “BSOHL” early on in draft season, Vladito has found his way onto most of my teams. I’m pretty sold on a pitcher/hitter or hitter/pitcher inside the top two rounds, followed by one of the the three elites at the keystone or Tim Anderson in Round 3. However, Round 4 is super-murky to me. I like the outfielders well enough (Starling Marte, Marcell Ozuna, George Springer) but I’m not inclined to snag one given the depth of that position—and given that I probably snagged an outfielder already with one of my top two picks. Instead, I prefer the floor/upside mix that Vladdy offers. His hard hit and average exit velocity numbers were off the charts in 2020, both ranking inside the top 7% of the league. He doesn’t strike out much, either (only 15.6% last year). He truly is a slight launch angle adjustment from an absurd type of season. He could bat .300 and slug 30+ homers, and I don’t think any of us would be surprised. Give me all of that upside in the uncertainty of Round 4. You can keep your Lance Lynn and your top closer shares...I’m not interested.

Round 5, pick 75: Raisel Iglesias (LAA)

Iglesias is one of my favorite picks this year. He’s the fifth closer off the board, but has the upside to finish as the top man given his skill set, his unquestioned role as the ninth inning man, and his ability to work more than one inning at a time. Formerly, yours truly played too many games with closers and never sought to pay up. Not so this year. I want one anchor, and then I’ll take darts during the rest of my draft. My anchor this year has typically been Iglesias or Edwin Diaz—whoever falls the farthest. So welcome to the fold, Iglesias. You’re my guy in 2021. Don’t let me down.

Round 6, pick 87: Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Toronto Blue Jays

Gurriel Jr. is the dark horse stud in Toronto’s lineup. He’s arguably overshadowed by the George Springer signing, the star power of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., stud shortstop Bo Bichette, and even the controversy surrounding Cavan Biggio’s batting order slot. Meanwhile, he’s primed to play every day in left field and should bat in the heart of a deep Toronto lineup. He’s a 30-homer threat if he gives us a healthy season, with an ability to be a plus in batting average (career .287 hitter) and offer some chip-in speed (think 7-10 swipes). I’m sold.

Round 7, pick 98: Zack Wheeler, Philadelphia Phillies

Full disclosure, I dislike this round similar to how I dislike Round 4. That said, I think the safest bet within this range is probably a starting pitcher, and I like Wheeler a heck of a lot better than arms like Carlos Carrasco and Zack Greinke, who are also being drafted in this vicinity. In 2018 and 2019, Wheeler logged a sturdy 182 13 innings and 195 13 innings, respectively. Then in 2020, his 71 innings ranked 14th among all starters. He shifted his pitch mix last year, choosing to rely on a sinker over 21% of the time. What followed was a career-high 55.9% ground ball rate and minuscule 0.38 HR/9. Put differently, he allowed only three home runs over those 71 innings, and his 85.7 MPH average exit velocity was inside the top 10% of the league. Sure, his strikeout rate dropped as well, but given his volume and solid ratios, I’m sold on Wheeler as a sturdy SP3 type this year. He keeps it on the ground, generates weak contact, doesn’t allow barrels, and doesn’t walk people. Give me all of that floor.

Round 8, pick 120: Matt Chapman, Oakland Athletics

Any fears over Chapman’s return from hip surgery should be laid to rest, as the defensive wizard has three homers already this spring, as well as nine walks against 11 strikeouts. His solo homer yesterday was crushed—it had an exit velocity of 110 MPH. And if you want some proof for your eyes, here’s a diving stop from about six days ago. Again, he’s looking smooth and spry so far this spring. He’s a top-100 player waiting to happen, and was being drafted as such last year, prior to being injured (around pick 90). Enjoy the 30-pick discount this year.

Round 9, pick 129: Wil Myers, San Diego Padres

I’m not sure why Myers isn’t getting more hype. Unfounded fears over playing time issues? I don’t get it. Before we move further, peep the altered batting stance from 2020:

Myers was certainly more athletic-looking, and appeared to have his weight back more and that front heel up. Can I tell you all the reasons why, or tell you if there’s a direct link between this and his torrid 2020? Nope. I’m not that good. But I will point out that Myers is still just 30 years old, is a former top prospect, and has the speed to chip-in with double-digit steals (while also offering power in a stacked San Diego lineup). He’s not getting squeezed out of this lineup, folks. Be worried about Jake Cronenworth (RIP to my early shares) and Ha-seong Kim if you must, but don’t fret about Myers. In 2020, Myers had a blood-red Statcast page, setting career marks with a 14.8% barrel rate, .583 xSLG, .400 wOBA, .392 xwOBA, and a .503 xWOBACON. He ranked in the 85th percentile for speed, too. Over a full year, you might have some concern at times over the batting average, but the power and the speed will play, and the average should still be around .255 or above. 25 home runs and 15 steals would not be a surprise to me if Myers remains healthy. I’m taking the plunge on him everywhere.

Round 10, pick 137: Ramon Laureano, Oakland Athletics

As you can tell by Myers, Laureano, and the trio that comes next, this is clearly the time in my drafts when I’m beefing up my outfield ranks. Laureano had some soreness in his left side last week, but he returned to action a few days ago and promptly smacked this double:

As for Laureano likely handling leadoff duties, I’ll direct you to one of Mike Kurland’s epic #lineuptakeaways:

It’s only 20 at-bats in total this spring, but Laureano is slashing .300/.500/.800 with a pair of homers, a double, a stolen base, and seven walks against just three strikeouts. Even if Mark Canha makes it interesting for the top seat, the current projection is still Canha and Laureano in the top two spots of the order. I don’t really believe they’ll be using Elvis Andrus at the top to lengthen that lineup. I’m all over Laureano’s athleticism in this draft spot.

To be continued with Rounds 11-20 later on. Round 11 begins with a trio of outfielders...