Normally, having the first draft pick is considered lucky. The fantasy owner who gets that pick usually drafts the top player in the league and enjoys watching that player carry his team to glory during the season. However, in 2020, there is not just one top player in fantasy baseball. In fact, I would argue that there are three top players. Moreover, if I could have my choice as to where I selected, I would take the third pick in the draft. Why? Because there’s not much of a difference between the top three players, and I would be able to get the earlier second-round pick.
Let’s take a closer look at the top three players for fantasy baseball in 2020. Then, I will give you my selection as to the order in which I would draft them.
OF Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
Most fantasy baseball owners who have the first pick initially think of taking Mike Trout. Only 28 years old, Trout has arguably been the best player in MLB for the past five seasons. He is a five-category superstar who can hit home runs and steal bases with ease. Additionally, he plays in a solid lineup (augmented by the addition of Anthony Rendon) and was leading the American League in home runs prior to his injury last season.
Are there any reasons that fantasy owners need to be worried about drafting Trout? Perhaps. Over the past three seasons, Trout has not had more than 471 at-bats, and he has averaged only 129 games played. He suffered from foot issues at the end of 2019 and saw his stolen base total drop to 11, his lowest since 2015. Finally, his hard contact rate was only 43.8% which placed him 39th in MLB.
Is Trout still a special talent? Absolutely. But is he the number one overall talent? That remains to be seen.
OF Christian Yelich, Milwaukee Brewers
Yelich was off to a historic season in 2019 before a broken kneecap got in the way and forced him to the injured list after 130 games. Up until that point, Yelich had 44 HRs and 30 SB while hitting .329. The words Triple Crown are so rarely used in baseball, but Yelich was clearly having a Triple Crown-type of season. Yelich is a beast at home and hit .347 against righties last season. Basically, there is nothing he can’t do on a baseball field.
If there are any negatives about selecting Yelich first overall, they are more suppositions than anything. For instance, I suppose that Yelich will run less this season after suffering such a horrible injury last year. Do I know for sure that will happen? No, but it seems to make sense. Also, the Brewers lineup is weaker around him so he might not see as many good pitches to hit. Once again, this is supposition, and nothing will be determined until we see the Brewers play.
OF Ronald Acuna, Atlanta Braves
At only 22 years old, Acuna brings a skill set that is electrifying. Last year as a full-time player, he hit .280 with 41 HRs and 37 SB. The only reason that he did not steal 40 was due to a late-season hip injury. He will be motivated to get to 40/40 this season for sure. The crazy thing about Acuna is that there might even be more power in his bat. His barrel rate was in the top 5% of the league and he had a fly ball rate of 38%. He showed a great deal of patience at the plate for someone so young as well.
If there is a slight chink in Acuna’s armor it might be with his batting average. .280 is solid, but it’s not the .300-plus that we expect from Trout and Yelich. Moreover, his contact rate slipped just a bit, meaning that if he chases more power, he could see his average drop slightly.
How would I draft them?
I would take Acuna first overall. While I can see him hitting .265-.275, I am enthralled by his potential to hit 50 HR and steal 40 bases. He plays in a solid lineup and he is so young that there is no injury history to worry about.
I would take Christian Yelich second. I do think his steals go down a bit (maybe 15-20), but I can see him hitting .320 with 40-plus home runs. His freak injury derailed what could have been an epic season. This might leave him more motivated than ever which would be scary,
Shockingly to some, I would draft Mike Trout third overall. I see a decline in his stolen bases, and I do worry somewhat about his hard-hit rate. That said, I would be just fine having him as the cornerstone of my team, and I know that I could win a fantasy baseball championship with any of the three players as my first pick.
MORE FROM SI: