Here are the top first-year players to look out for on draft day for your fantasy baseball league.
With the MLB Draft quickly approaching it’s time to analyze which prospects are going to be the most valuable in your fantasy baseball dynasty leagues. Whether you are in a standard snake draft or participating in an auction, this article serves as an introduction to which First-Year Players should be on your radar. Unlike last year there is a lot of depth at pitching so snagging up an elite hitter in the early rounds is more important than ever. From a real-life perspective, the signability of a player is a top priority for teams this year and from a fantasy perspective, how quickly a player might be called up to the majors could change the direction of your dynasty team.
This article will focus more on college prospects that will be able to contribute to your team sooner rather than later. With that said, prospect ranking and scouting, in general, is a volatile endeavor, and trying to do it for fantasy purposes can be complicated. If this is your first year drafting prospects you must keep in mind, for example, a player might be a good catcher in college but that doesn’t mean they will stay a catcher in the majors. Therefore, defensive ability is more important in Prospect Drafts than it is in your standard fantasy league draft but it is not the end all be all.
1B Spencer Torkelson
Coming into the 2020 MLB Draft, Spencer Torkelson is the favorite to be the first pick overall by the Detroit Tigers and that should be no different in your fantasy league. Torkelson’s bat is a fantasy player’s dream as he possesses high-end raw power with a double plus power-tool (70) and a high hit tool (65). Torkelson is considered to be the best hitter in the draft while still offering a ton of power upside and he is at one of the shallowest positions (currently) in fantasy at first base.
Torkelson has the rare ability at his age to be aggressive on pitches he likes while maintaining the patience needed to force the pitcher into a hitter’s pitch. Torkelson projects to be a perennial top 15-20 fantasy player down the line and he will do this by hitting for power and average. Don’t overthink it, draft “Tork”.
IF/OF Austin Martin
Although Spencer Torkelson will probably be drafted first, Austin Martin is the most complete hitter in this year’s draft. Martin has the ability to hit for a high average (double plus hit tool), has great plate discipline, strong gap power, and should be able to swipe some bags. For fantasy, Martin’s ability to steal bases makes him even more valuable in a Roto or head-to-head category leagues. Chrish Welsh from ProspectOne ($) projects him as an eventual 25 home run, 15 steal guy. Martin’s athleticism allows him to play several positions such as SS, 2B, and CF so his road to the majors might not take too long. Jim Callis of MLB Pipeline describes Martin as the “best pure hitter in the draft” while Ralph Lifshitz of ProspectLive projects him to hit somewhere between “.280 to .310, with 18 to 23 home runs, and 15 to 20 steals.”
2B Nick Gonzales
Nick Gonzales is the most decorated prospect in this year’s draft and the fact he’s a second baseman makes him even more attractive since the position is historically very shallow. Gonzales earned All-American honors at New Mexico State after he slashed an incredible batting line of .432/.532/.773. He backed up this performance by hitting seven home runs in the Cape Cod League on his way to being named the MVP for 2019. Gonzales has top-notch bat control and bat speed while showcasing prolific power. He also has a chance to be a contributor in steals with his above-average speed and solid running instincts. From a fantasy perspective, he is the third-best hitter and he is ready made for the pros. Many in the industry compare him to Keston Huira who is now being drafted around the fourth round in most 12-team fantasy leagues. The biggest knock on Gonzales is his fielding but that shouldn’t affect his ability to make the majors sooner rather than later.
RHP Emerson Hancock
Emerson Hancock, the tall righty from Georgia might be the most MLB-ready starting pitcher in this year’s draft. Hancock has an electric fastball that touches 97 MPH while possessing high-end command with his fastball, slider, and changeup. During his sophomore season at Georgia, Hancock dominated the SEC conference with a 1.99 ERA and a 0.84 WHIP. Coming into the 2020 season, most believed Hancock would be the first pitcher drafted but he did have a slow start and this has led to some doubting his abilities. Chris Welsh described Hancock as being “built from the same mold as Casey Mize except with better health and mechanics.” Hancock should be the first or second fantasy pitcher taken in your fantasy draft.
LHP Asa Lacy
Asa Lacey is the best fantasy pitcher in this year’s draft, just edging out Hancock, and has a very slight chance to go number one overall. At 6’4, Lacey is a towering lefty who fastball tops out at 98 MPH and he possesses a nasty slider which is his true swing-and-miss pitch. Lacey’s fastball and slider combo is the best one-two punch in the whole draft which helps to make him the best strikeout pitcher available this year. Lacey also has a decent changeup and a serviceable curveball. In 2019, Lacey posted 130 strikeouts in just 88.2 innings. The only knock on Lacy is that he can be inefficient with his pitches but he has made so much progress in such little time, this may not be a problem once he hits the big leagues. Lacy has all of the upsides a dynasty owner could ask for so he should be the first pitcher off the board in your fantasy draft.
C Austin Wells
Austin Wells is the best hitting catcher in the 2020 MLB draft and that automatically makes him fantasy relevant. In 2018, Wells was drafted by the New York Yankees but opted to go to Arizona University where he was named the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year and a unanimous Freshman All-American in 2019. Once in the Cape Cod League, Wells did not disappoint batting .308 in 156 at-bats with seven home runs and 27 RBIs. Wells is disciplined at the plate while boasting a solid amount of raw power. However, his defense behind the dish has been questioned and some scouts think he will eventually become a first baseman or outfielder. If that does happen he is nowhere near as valuable in fantasy but his above-average bat makes him less of a gamble.
OF Garrett Mitchell
Garrett Mitchell’s number one weapon is speed and since speed is the most valuable and most scarce resource in fantasy, Mitchell should make for an excellent investment for your dynasty team. In 2019, Mitchell led the ULCA Bruins with 18 stolen bases. Jim Callis said he is the most well rounded, five-tool player in the draft but because of his health problems (Type 1 diabetes) he could be a gamble with a top pick. So far Mitchell has not tapped into his raw power but that does not mean it isn’t there. For now, Mitchell has the ability to hit for a strong average. In his three years at UCLA, Mitchell hit .327, notching 24 doubles, 15 triples, and six home runs. Depending on which team drafts him, Mitchell could be playing major league ball very soon.
C Patrick Bailey
Patrick Bailey is the top college catcher in this draft and unlike Austin Wells, scouts do not doubt his ability to be a catcher in the majors. As a freshman at North Carolina State, Bailey earned ACC Freshman of the Year and All-American honors on his way to hitting .321 with 12 home runs and 40 RBIs in just 187 at-bats. As a sophomore, Bailey didn’t have the same level of success at the dish but he did hold his own batting .288 with 10 home runs and 46 RBIs. Bailey is a switch hitter with above-average power from both sides and does display good plate discipline. From a fantasy perspective, Baliey is the safest catcher to draft in a dynasty league this year.
OF Daniel Cabrera
Daniel Cabrera is one of the safer bats in the draft but he doesn’t do anything that really stands out. During his time at LSU, Cabrera hit a solid .300/.382/.520 while playing above-average defense as a corner outfielder. Mason McRae from Prospects365 ($) reports Cabrera has above average hitting actions and well above average bat-to-ball skills. As a projection in the majors, Chris Welsh ($) believes Cabrera will hit .280 with 20 home runs and 10 stolen bases. Overall, unless he drops down late into the first round I believe there are players with better upside available.
LHP Reid Detmers
Reid Detmers is another solid arm in this year’s draft but does not offer much major league upside as he projects to be the third pitcher in an MLB rotation. Detmers has solid command and control on his fastball which averages between 90-91 MPH but what makes him stand out is his incredible breaking ball. However, scouts have pointed out that Detmers really lacks velocity and he will have a tough time striking out big leaguers. If you are in a head to head points league or a quality start league Detmers holds more value but I would rather pass on him and go after a high-end bat in the first two rounds.