Jose Ramirez has become the Holy Grail in my fantasy baseball endeavors. He is an object of mystery and fascination. No, I don’t have a share yet, despite the recent completion of my fourth draft over at the NFBC.
As I am mildly obsessed with obtaining Ramirez’s services, I am here to pore over the last month of Draft Champions ADP (23 drafts since December 16th) to see what the numbers tell me. Ramirez is pretty simple (you’re aiming for pick 3) but it’s a worthwhile endeavor to consider each draft position on its own, and which players might be available in Rounds 2 and 3 to bolster that Round 1 pick.
What follows is an odd mix of who is available at each draft slot, with my own preferences woven in. I do have some (minor) gripes with the way Round 1 is shaking up...but hopefully that means there are some chinks in the proverbial armor that I can exploit when setting my KDS (Kentucky Derby System) draft slot preferences. More on that at the end...
Draft slot #1: Trea Turner, Fernando Tatis Jr.
The trouble with the first slot is how you anchor your pitching staff. Your options at the 2/3 turn are likely injury risks like Jacob deGrom or Shane Bieber, or guys you’re drafting an hoping they reach their ceiling—like Sandy Alcantara and Julio Urias. There’s also the hot button issue of drafting a closer early (Liam Hendriks, Josh Hader) but you can count me out of that, too. I understand that saves are murky and that the draft and hold format pressures drafters to secure saves. But if I have my preference—and with the KDS system I get some input—I want NO part of a top two pick this year.
Furthermore, by the time I’m picking again at pick 60 at the 4/5 turn, guys like Raisel Iglesias (46.32), Emmanuel Clase (48.58), Edwin Diaz (54.53), and Ryan Pressly (55.05) are probably long gone. And if I’m drafting the roller coaster that is Aroldis Chapman (66.58), I’d prefer to do so later in Round 5, after I have a robust core of four picks in hand. Slot 1 and 2 just feels like running uphill to me. You’re likely dealing with a big(ger) injury concern as your SP1, hoping for the top end of outcomes for Alcantara or Urias, paying up for a closer, or missing out on getting at least one guy anchor your saves group. And I do like one anchor for my saves group when possible. But I don’t like paying a draft day price of pick 30 to secure said anchor. As such, I’m not really into either of the top two draft positions as things stand currently.
Draft slot #2: Trea Turner or Fernando Tatis Jr.
See draft slot #1. Pretty much the same. Maybe you get a chance to snag Cedric Mullins in Round 2 to pair with Tatis Jr., and if so I’d say you’re off to a fine start despite having a riskier SP1 than the back end drafters.
Draft slot #3: Jose Ramirez
Party time! This is where I want to get a share or two before the draft season ends. Jose Ramirez (3.35) is solidly the third pick on average right now, and the argument for his power/speed combination at a painfully thin third base position makes itself. There’s also more at your disposal when your second pick comes back to you—you’ll have a realistic shot at landing Starling Marte (24.30) or Cedric Mullins (29.52). You’ll also have the option (if you want) of snagging an early closer. Jacob deGrom and Shane Bieber are the aforementioned injury risk pitchers that might be available to you, but for my part I’d be hoping for a Round 2 bat and a sturdy Aaron Nola or Lucas Giolito at pick 33.
Draft slot #4: Juan Soto or Bo Bichette
Soto is a career .301 hitter with 35-homer, 12ish-steal upside...while Bichette should give up some power but offer more speed (Bichette went 29/25 last year). Bichette also is a career .301 hitter, so maybe this isn’t the slam dunk for Soto that I assumed it might be. It’s close, though, which makes this a roster construction deal. How much do you like outfielders or shortstops later on? My eyes tell me that outfield picks dry up quickly, especially in 15-team leagues. So if your lean is Soto, I wouldn’t argue at all.
Draft slot #5: Soto or Bichette
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is a beast, but I still think it’s Soto or Bichette here. You’ll get more power from Vladdy, sure—but you’re beginning your draft with a real need for speed if you go that route. You can do it, it’s just not my preference if there’s a power/speed combo still on the board.
Draft slot #6: Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Assuming the obvious power/speed guys are off the board, here’s where you’d decide if you were rolling with a pitcher (Cole, Burnes, Ohtani) or getting a bat (Vladdy, Bryce Harper, Ohtani). For my part, it’s Vlad. I dig Harper in Round 1 for his floor, but it’s nice to lock in a ton of batting average help AND get all the power numbers from Vlad. Harper is a career .279 hitter, but he’s had some wild BABIP swings in his career.
This pick is also late enough in Round 1 that I like my chances of snagging a Round 2 arm, namely Zack Wheeler (21.70) if he makes it close to his max pick of 26. If he doesn’t, it’s likely another bat, with Starling Marte being option A given that he’ll offer the speed I didn’t get with Vladdy. Then it’s looking at who falls between Sandy Alcantara, Julio Urias, Aaron Nola, or Lucas Giolito if I’m looking for an arm in Round 3.
Draft slot #7: Bryce Harper
I’m taking the road less traveled here. Over the past month of DCs, the 7-8 spots have gone to Gerrit Cole and Corbin Burnes on average. Me, I prefer to grab my offense in Round 1. If you do decide to roll with Cole or Burnes, you’ll likely be praying for the well-rounded skill set of Starling Marte (24.68) to make it all the way back to you in Round 2. And the elephant in the room is going to rapidly become Shohei Ohtani, who is being selected with the ninth pick on average over the last month. But that’s not the route I’m going, either.
Draft slot #8: Kyle Tucker
Tucker BELONGS in Round 1. He offers power, speed, and batting average (.294 BA with a .304 BABIP in ‘21). He plays for the Houston Astros, and love ‘em or hate ‘em, they’re going to score runs in bunches. So the counting stats should be there, too. Check out these projections for Harper and Tucker, per Steamer:
Player A: .269/.398/.531, 35 HR, 101 R, 100 RBI, 12 SB
Player B: .278/.348/.522, 31 HR, 84 R, 92 RBI, 14 SB
Yes, Player B is Tucker and the counting stats are projected to be quite different. Harper’s on-base skills are going to ensure that he scores runs in bunches, always. But Tucker has got game, too. Both guys have great expected batting average marks recently, but Tucker isn’t getting enough love for last year’s .307 expected batting average. Tucker also mostly batted sixth or seventh for Houston in 2021, but this year he is projected to bat at least fifth in the order given the departure of one Carlos Correa. Michael Brantley is also nearing 35 years old, y’all. Is it that inconceivable that Tucker slides into the No. 2 spot for 2022? I’m not drafting Tucker over Harper...but I am saying it’s close.
Draft slot #9: Gerrit Cole or Corbin Burnes
Here’s where I’d dip my toes into the pitching waters, though on average these guys would be gone by now. Still, it bears mentioning. I’d prefer to snag one of these two and then look at a hitter at pick 22—namely one Ozzie Albies. Albies (19.52) isn’t cheap, but he’s in that Jose Ramirez ilk in that he’ll offer power and speed at a thin position. You may enjoy punishing yourself by drafting low-power, low-speed types and trying to talk yourself into how good they’ll be for you in 2022...but you can keep your DJ LeMahieu types. Give me Albies or give me death. And if Albies isn’t there, I’d look for a falling outfielder (Trout, Betts, Robert) or Rafael Devers at a paper thin hot corner. And if none of those guys were there, it would be Starling Marte.
Draft slot #10: Cole or Burnes
Draft slot #11: Shohei Ohtani
He’s likely going to be a hitter most weeks for you, but he comes with the added injury risk that pitching affords him. As such, he’s probably not a guy I’ll have in 2022. I’d think he’d be drafted before this pick in most leagues.
Draft slot #12: Walker Buehler
I’m assuming that my later round targets in Harper and Tucker are gone, and I’m staring at that next wave of outfielders (Acuña, Trout, Betts) or my first starter (Buehler, Scherzer, Woodruff). My preference is the perceived sturdiness of Buehler in Round 1, or Woodruff in Round 2. I love Max Scherzer like everyone else, but he’s 37 years old and at some point the wheels fall off the wagon. I’m not against him in 2022, but my preference is to lean towards the younger guys. So it’s Buehler then a bat, or a bat and then Woodruff. There is some risk that Woodruff is gone when it comes back in Round 2, though—so my lean is Buehler in Round 1 and then the best bat available in Round 2. Full disclosure, I’m still waiting on more information like the rest of you. I’ve been at this point multiple times on the young draft season, and once I took Trout and once I took Acuña.
Draft slot #13: Brandon Woodruff
Same deal as above. I’m taking the starter I like, and then the best bat of my choice in Round 2.
Draft slot #14: Max Scherzer
Okay. Assuming my 13 preferred guys are gone, I’m staring at either Max Scherzer or one of those outfielders. Given that there’s only one of Scherzer and three of the outfielders, guess who my pick would be?
Draft slot #15: Mike Trout
I really, really don’t want to be on either side of the draft this year. I want to be in the 3-4-5-6 spots (a shot at J-Ram or one of the top six hitters) or the 10-11 spots (either Harper or Tucker with a shot at a solid arm in Round 2). But if I HAD to pick from 15 and my top 14 were gone, my slight lean among the bats remaining is for Mike Trout. Unlike Acuña, he’s not coming off of a torn ACL. Trout is also reportedly healthy and he’s still the best baseball player of the last decade. Trout is a career .305/.419/.583 hitter, which is just absurd. Do you know the list of qualified players who slashed .300/.400/.500 last year? Juan Soto, Bryce Harper, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. That’s it. Just, y’know, three rock solid fellow first round picks. And as for the speed...the 30-year-old Trout still ranks inside the top 4% of the league in sprint speed. Maybe you can’t bank on double-digit swipes given last year’s calf injury, but he’ll be elite everywhere and he still has the tools to chip in with speed. Ronald Acuña Jr. is young enough and athletic enough to fully return from the ACL and be a fantasy baseball terror...but if I’m picking right now it’s Trout by a hair.
General KDS strategy for 2022
What stands out to you in the first 15 picks this year? Based on the above, my general KDS strategy would be something like 3-4-5-6-10-11-9-8-7-12-13-2-1-14-15. Maybe some minor tweaks in there, but I’d feel decent about that flow...I think. KDS seems like a crapshoot, honestly. I like the randomness, but it’s wacky. Again...what say you all?