Many people play fantasy baseball with the hopes of beating their friends or family, getting bragging rights, and having a home made trophy to show off forever. There is also a game mode in many baseball games that allows you to play as a team and have a fantasy draft with every team in the league and essentially draft the players you want to play with. This draft is a little different as there are options of having realistic budget constraints depending on the market or giving every team equal spending money, having to fill out a 25 man roster, and worrying about not picking the most expensive player each round so that you stuck with minimum salary players after round 7.
What if you got the chance to actually be the GM of a Major League Baseball team and had to draft a full team of players? The first few rounds might be picked the same way as an ESPN Fantasy Baseball draft with sluggers and top pitchers ruling the boards. A few things would be evidently different right away:
- There are more than 12 teams. There are 30. Your team won’t have a potential all-star at every position. Your 4th round ESPN pick becomes your 2nd round pick and you helplessly watch the talent pool fade away faster than you imagined. You don’t know as many players as you thought you did. Sure, in an ESPN league the experts recommend players and adds/drops. But if you wait until the last round to pick a shortstop because all of the “good ones” are already gone, you will be seeing names that could be NFL players for all you know.
- Just because you love right handed power pitchers that throw in the upper 90s, you can’t draft only right handed power pitchers that throw in the upper 90s. There are lefties that need to be on your roster and other pitchers who throw different speeds that you can bring into a game to change the eyesight of hitters.
- Defense is now just as important as offense (more or less). Most fantasy leagues only account for offensive statistics, but a real team has to play defense as well, which means you don’t want to have David Ortiz and Billy Butler as your 1B/DH combo because one of them will have to play the field. You also may not like a .230 batting average, but 5 Gold Gloves can offset that lack of hitting.
- You are drafting for a franchise and not a one year team. Albert Pujols may be a viable fantasy option if he actually plays and you don’t have to pay him. However, Pujols wouldn’t be a unanimous first round pick like he used based on his recent production or lack there of, not to mention the loaded contract he has and the money he is owed. There is a good chance Pujols would not get drafted if he was allowed to keep his current contract.
- There aren’t free agents you can simply add if one of your players isn’t producing. Technically there would be free agents. But those free agents wouldn’t have been playing baseball. You would have to do what real teams do and either promote a player, have a guy switch positions, actually sign a free agent, or make a trade. Assuming that minor league rosters are randomly assigned after you draft your MLB roster, there would be an option or two to assess.
- Drafting a real life baseball team would not be as easy as a fantasy team, although it would be much more fun knowing that it is real life! Suppose you had the first pick in the draft, and every player was available. A case could be made for maybe 15 or 20 guys to be the top overall pick. Baseball’s elite players change from year to year though so you would want a player with a proven track record, yet young enough to be worth picking to lead a team more than a year or two.
Fantasy baseball first round pick possibilities
Depending on your preference of pitching versus hitting, there are solid choices for both. I’ll give you 3 hitters and 3 pitchers who could be worthy of a first overall fantasy baseball pick.
- Miguel Cabrera – The best hitter in baseball and most recent Triple Crown winner, Cabrera is a logical choice as a first overall pick. He hits for power, average, and gets the job done. There are few pitchers who can get him out on a consistent basis. Hopefully he stays healthy for the next few years and continues to give baseball fans a player who is as dominant as he is.
- Mike Trout – At his age, salary, and talent, Trout may be the conscientious number one pick. He isn’t eligible for arbitration for a few years, he is the best bang for your buck, and the kid is amazing. He runs like Hayes and hits like Mays. Show me someone who doesn’t like Mike Trout as a player and I’ll show you a division rival or back-up center fielder.
- Yadier Molina – My wildcard pick, Molina probably wouldn’t be considered as a first overall pick, yet to get the game’s best catcher who also hits as well as he does would not be a waste of a pick. He is sure to be a first rounder, and it would be tougher to find a decent catcher than a decent infielder or outfielder. Catchers touch the ball every pitch so they need to be trustworthy. No catcher is more trustworthy than Molina.
- Clayton Kershaw – After the contract he is supposedly going to sign, I may not feel as comfortable giving a team’s entire budget to one player, but for now Kershaw has proven himself as a dominant pitcher and Cy Young award winner. He has the fastball, the breaking ball, and he is a lefty. Money talks but very few teams would be willing or able to dish out the money that he is about to make.
- Justin Verlander – I’m not crazy about him personally as a first overall pick, but there are plenty of people who would consider him a legitimate possibility. He had a career year last year and still is a dominating pitcher, but he isn’t really the best option unless you want a flame throwing right hander who can eat up a lot of innings. If you did draft him, you know you’re bullpen would get a light load every 5th day.
- Yu Darvish – Drafting a Japanese player as the first pick of America’s Past time seems odd to suggest, but Darvish has established himself as a dominant pitcher in the Major Leagues. He is young and has stuff that many players haven’t seen before, be it his style of pitching or his pitching itself. He can eat a lot of innings like Verlander and Kershaw which is essential for a pitcher to be considered as a first overall pick.
There is no way to decide who would be picked where and what teams would draft which players. The only things that would really prevent a player from being drafted higher than his worth would be a high salary/long contract or a player’s age. With a fresh start, there would be no need to draft older players as high picks, unless you could convince Mariano Rivera to pitch an extra three years.
With all the players available, I would personally choose between Cabrera and Trout. I would want someone who is an everyday player (position player) and is the best at his position. The dilemma between these two would be playing for the present or lasting into the future, but with Trout’s production, it is hard to argue he isn’t just as valuable a player as Cabrera.
Fantasy baseball leagues online might be easier to understand and manage since it’s all done for you, but having to draft a real life baseball team would be a fun challenge. If you have access to a baseball game like MLB The Show, I highly encourage you to spend an hour trying the draft out and seeing who you end up with. It’s as close as you can get to doing it in real life. If you want to have a better team, be the Yankees and have realistic budgets. If you want a challenge, be the Astros – the current Astros. They can’t get much worse than they already are.