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Early One-Man Mock (Round 1) - 2022 Fantasy Baseball

ronald acuna fantasy baseball rankings MLB Injury news DFS lineup picks

There is no such thing as too early when it comes to draft prep. The calendar won't flip to 2022 for another few weeks but we at RotoBaller aren't ones to sit around and wait.

Mock drafts take time, so I took matters into my own hands to complete a one-man mock. For the most part, roster construction wasn't taken into consideration so much as value relative to draft slot. In this column, I will run through the first round of the draft to determine who should be the top players taken in early fantasy drafts.

The consensus ADP will change drastically throughout the offseason but we'll mostly see the same group of players in the first round with slight variation in draft slot. Here are the players that fit the bill with my thoughts behind their current situations.

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Round 1 Mock

Pick Overall Player Team Pos
1 1 Fernando Tatis Jr. SD SS
2 2 Juan Soto WAS OF
3 3 Trea Turner LAD 2B/SS
4 4 Jose Ramirez CLE 3B
5 5 Bo Bichette TOR SS
6 6 Vladimir Guerrero Jr. TOR 1B
7 7 Shohei Ohtani LAA UT
8 8 Corbin Burnes MIL SP
9 9 Gerrit Cole NYY SP
10 10 Bryce Harper PHI OF
11 11 Walker Buehler LAD SP
12 12 Ronald Acuna Jr. ATL OF


Who's #1?

Who is most deserving of the top pick? For years it was a no-brainer that you picked Mike Trout but those days are over. There are a few players who can make a case for being Most Valuable Fantasy Player.

For me, it's Fernando Tatis Jr. That's not going to be an industry-wide consensus, however, as I've already seen Trea Turner and Juan Soto each picked first in early mocks.

Tatis is a true five-category stud and one of only two players to hit 40+ HR and steal 25+ bases last season (Shohei Ohtani was the other). The fact he logged just 478 at-bats makes his counting stats all the more impressive. His 7.7% HR% has climbed each year and he led the majors in 11.4 at-bats per home run.

The only mark against Tatis that could knock him off the top spot is the shoulder injury that held him out of 32 games last year. He is electing not to have surgery in the offseason, so here's hoping that rest and rehab keep him intact for a full season.

Trea Turner isn't far behind as a fantasy franchise player, hitting .328 over the season despite a lull after moving to Los Angeles. If anything, his place in the Dodgers lineup over a full season makes him more valuable. He may move back to shortstop if Corey Seager signs elsewhere as a free agent, but retains 2B eligibility which is even better. Some are skeptical of him approaching 30 homers again but his 17% HR/FB matches two previous seasons so it's not as if he was extraordinarily lucky. The power ceiling isn't as high as any of the other hitters taken in round one but his average is likely to be the best again and that is a harder category to win than power.


The First Pitcher Off the Board Is...

Corbin Burnes is likely to be the first starting pitcher selected after his Cy Young campaign. It's hard to be as dominant as he was in every facet.

His 7.5 WAR was tops among all pitchers. For those wondering whether he had luck on his side, his .309 BABIP was actually one of the highest among qualified starters and his .180 xBA was 21 points below his actual BA so he should have finished with better ratios, if you can believe it. Fantasy managers would like to see more innings out of the ace, as he finished 32nd on the list at 167 IP. He's in his prime at age 27 and could be stretched a bit more next season so it shouldn't be a reason to fade him.


Most Valuable Players?

Shohei Ohtani and Bryce Harper took home the hardware in their respective leagues for MVP but fall to pick 1.7 and 1.10 in this mock. Ohtani dispelled any concerns about his health after taking 639 plate appearances while pitching on a weekly basis as well. In addition to showcasing prodigious power that produced the third-most homers in the majors (46) and the highest Barrels per Batted Ball Event rate (22.3%) among qualifiers, he also swiped 26 bases and drove in 100 runs. There is one knock against him, however, and that's the fact he must occupy the Utility spot on fantasy rosters. It's a small gripe but his lack of positional eligibility and a .257 batting average are enough to keep him all the way down at seventh.

Harper has the average in check, batting .309 last year, but his 13 steals aren't enough to put him higher than 10th. One has to wonder if his power output will increase next year, though. He led the league with 42 doubles and Statcast shows that he underachieved on his xHR by 5.3, meaning he should have gone yard 40 times rather than 35. It would be hard for Harper to get much better, as he's finished above the 90th percentile in xwOBA for five straight years. That's the kind of consistency you want in a first-round pick.


Injury Concerns

How high does Ronald Acuna Jr. get drafted after missing half of the 2021 season and recovering from ACL surgery? Fantasy managers will be scared to take him too soon but simultaneously scared to pass on him. Few players have legit 40/40 upside like he does and he returns to the heart of the lineup for the World Series champion Braves who improved their lineup without him out of necessity. If offseason reports indicate that he will return by May 1 at the latest, he can be considered a late first-rounder, which is why I have him optimistically slotted here as the final pick. If his ETA is pushed back any further, he can't be taken this early.

Two conspicuous absences from the first round are Mike Trout and Jacob deGrom. The three-time MVP posted the highest OBP and OPS of his career in 2021 but it came in just 117 at-bats. He hasn't appeared in more than 140 games since 2016 and now finds himself on the wrong side of 30. The steals disappeared a couple of years ago and now health is a major concern. Anyone drafting Trout in round one would be doing so out of nostalgia.

The case of Jacob deGrom isn't as clear. His injury was enough to hold him out for the entire second half of the 2021 season but it shouldn't delay the start of his 2022 season. His recent injury history isn't as concerning as Trout and there is no debate he is the best pitcher on the planet currently. The difference between him and Walker Buehler boils down to a matter of six years in age difference and the projected edge in wins for Buehler. The Dodgers' ace is in his prime, has no injury concerns, and has a better supporting offense. I wouldn't blame someone for preferring deGrom but the first round is the time to play it safe.

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