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RotoBaller Staff Fantasy Baseball Mock Draft - Favorite Picks and Roster Strategies

Spencer Strider fantasy baseball rankings waiver wire pickups draft sleepers starting pitchers

Mock drafts are an excellent draft-prep tool that simulate the feeling of being in the draft room. In a fantasy baseball mock draft, you can test different strategies and experience the ebbs and flows of a fantasy draft. You can put your rankings to the test and see where your must-have players are being drafted. 

However, not every draft is the same. You can take part in numerous mock drafts just to have your real draft take several different turns along the way. Another benefit to taking part in a mock draft is to help you adapt when things go against what you expect. That's why you should bookmark our free fantasy baseball mock draft simulator tool, enter your league settings, and get prepped!

In this piece, I will take a look at specific picks from several early-round picks that stood out to me, put a spotlight on roster construction strategies, and discuss which positions were heavily targeted and which were faded. If you want more analysis like this, keep following our preseason RotoBaller MLB content and follow me on X. Note that this draft took place during the week of February 12, and the fantasy baseball ADPs used in this piece were provided by the NFBC.

Be sure to check all of our fantasy baseball lineup tools and weekly lineup resources:


The Mock Draft Board


Round 1 - Fantasy Baseball Mock Draft

Spencer Strider: 1.06 - Nick Mariano

ADP: 8.6

Spencer Strider was drafted a tad above the ADP with the sixth overall pick. Strider will most likely be the first pitcher taken in your home league, and rightfully so, as he is a favorite to win the NL Cy Young Award and is considered one of the best pitchers in the sport. From a fantasy perspective, Strider should lead all pitchers in strikeouts, be near the top of the pack in wins, and provide stable ratios.


Round 2 - Fantasy Baseball Mock Draft

Corbin Burnes: 2.03 - Pranavu

ADP: 25.5

One important skill to keep in mind while you are drafting is being flexible on ADP. If you feel strongly about a player and know that there is a strong possibility they will not make it back to you, by all means, reach out and take your guy.

Pranavu drafted the newly acquired Baltimore Oriole almost 10 spots higher than his ADP. The former Cy Young winner had a down year in 2023, but is primed for a bounce-back as his underlying metrics remained strong and should play even better in a recently renovated pitcher-proof Camden Yards.

Freddie Freeman: 2.05 - Eric Cross

ADP: 8.3

Freeman presents a different side to this strategy. A consensus first-round selection fell to the middle of the second round. This is a perfect example of always expecting the unexpected. The value was there, and Eric did not pass it up. Freeman tallied a .331 AVG with 131 runs, 102 RBI, 29 HRs, and 23 SBs in 2023.

The first baseman could see his run and RBI total climb as Shohei Ohtani will join the star-studded Dodgers in 2024. Freeman is the definition of consistency over the past decade and should be considered one of the safest investments you can make on draft day.


Round 3 - Fantasy Baseball Mock Draft

Corey Seager: 3.10 - Pranavu

ADP: 20.9

Depending on your league mates, Corey Seager can be drafted as high as the early part of the second round to almost the end of the fourth. Seager, considered a surefire first-round selection in the early part of the offseason, is now dropping fast as he underwent surgery to repair a sports hernia and is now uncertain for Opening Day.

The timetable is unknown as of now, which makes Seager a challenging investment to make early in your draft, as he could miss a month of play. However, it can be difficult to pass up one of the best pure hitters in baseball if he makes it to the third round as he did here. 


Round 4 - Fantasy Baseball Mock Draft

Oneil Cruz: 4.01 - Jamie Steed

ADP: 77.5

With the 37th selection, Oneil Cruz went off the board at almost 40 picks earlier than his ADP. A lesson that should be learned in this mock draft is that if there is a player you believe in and have a long wait before your next pick, reach for your guy.

Cruz showed flashes of superstar potential in 2022, which was washed away by a disappointing 2023, where he played in only nine games due to an ankle fracture. At only 25 years old, Cruz can bounce back and become a consensus early-round selection this time next year. 

Devin Williams: 4.12 - JB Branson

ADP: 44.9

Almost in lockstep with his offseason ADP, RowdyRotoJB selected Devin Williams as the first relief pitcher in the draft. Williams finally got the opportunity to be the full-time ninth-inning option after being the league’s best setup man for several years behind Josh Hader.

Williams looked just as dominant in years past and is projected to be near the top in save totals in the sport. This selection immediately puts RowdyRotoJB at the top of the saves category and provides him with some leeway when approaching his next selection.


Round 5 - Fantasy Baseball Mock Draft

Nolan Jones: 5.05 - Kirkskey

ADP: 55.3

Kirkskey was the lone team that selected an outfielder in Round 5. Almost matching consensus ADP, Nolan Jones continued the trend of the importance of grabbing multiple outfield bats early in the draft. The Colorado Rockies star posted a .297 AVG .542 SLG with 20 long balls, 20 swiped bags, and drove in 63 runs last season. Jones is being drafted toward the back end of the early outfield group and could be a bargain on draft day.

His Statcast page suggests his power output was well earned with an excellent .499 xSLG and 15.7% barrel rate, which was in the 88th and 94th percentile, respectively. I love the idea of Jones being a second or even third outfielder on your team in a five-outfielder league with his outstanding balance of power and speed. 


Round 7 - Fantasy Baseball Mock Draft

Eury Perez: 7.08 - Eric Cross

ADP: 79.6

As many teams began to select their first and, in some cases, second relief pitcher, Eric Cross had his eyes set on grabbing another starting pitcher in Eury Perez. Perez lived up to his prospect pedigree last season as he posted a 3.15 ERA and 1.13 WHIP over 91 ⅓ innings with 108 punchouts. To make this even more impressive, Perez did that as a 20-year-old. The young Marlin has ace potential upside and could very well finish as a top pitcher in fantasy.  

Now, let’s take a look at some trends in the draft, such as the importance of positional scarcity and how it affects roster construction.


How Valuable are Outfielders?

In a five-outfielder league (like this one), it is imperative to anchor your team with at least one outfielder in the first two rounds. In this draft, nine of the teams left the second round with at least one outfielder drafted in the first round. The teams that missed out on them did not reach for the next available one but instead pivoted to an infielder or a starting pitcher.

As the draft continued, the scarcity of high-end outfielders became more prevalent. As a result, only seven outfielders were drafted through Rounds 3-5.  

My team was the only one who left the first five rounds with at least three outfielders. Knowing that we would be starting five, I made it a pre-draft priority to push outfielders up my board. However, knowing that my top-three outfielders are the best in the league, on paper, I have a significant positional advantage at one of the hardest to fill because every team starts five, and the position is not as deep as it has been in previous seasons. 

I chose to draft Mookie Betts with the fourth selection, then pivoted to first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in the second round, and then went back to the outfield in Rounds 3 and 4 with Luis Robert Jr. and Randy Arozarena. Both Robert and Arozarena selections provide substantial stolen base numbers with upside for high power and RBI totals.

However, if you are uncomfortable with stacking outfielders early on, there are certainly alternatives available at this point. You can select a high-end starting pitcher like Spencer Strider or Gerrit Cole or shift your focus to a strong infield bat like an elite third baseman in Rafael Devers or Austin Riley or a first baseman in Pete Alonso or Bryce Harper.


Pitching: To Focus or Fade?

As mentioned before, one of the few pre-draft plans I had was to focus on grabbing high-end outfielders early in the draft, as that position has a sharp decline after the opening rounds, and we need to start five of them. However, while dedicating the early rounds of my draft to the bats, I began to miss out on many high-end starters and relievers.

Instead, knowing that I would already have a strong foundation in the hitting categories, I prioritized strikeouts and wins as I had already missed out on pitchers who provided excellent ratios with elite strikeout numbers.  

If I do well in the hitting categories and both strikeouts and wins, I put myself in a solid position to succeed.  

With that in mind, I faded saves, ERA, and WHIP. However, if my starting pitching staff performs above expectations, I may find myself in the middle of the pack of those pitching ratio categories, which would be a nice return based on their draft positions.

By prioritizing strikeouts, I selected Framber Valdez (5.04), Blake Snell (6.09), and Dylan Cease (9.04) as my top-three starting pitching. Snell, coming off his second Cy Young Award, generates whiffs at an elite rate and has a chance to lead the sport in strikeouts.  

Valdez, a jack of all trades, averages just about a strikeout per inning, but should be in a solid position to win many games on a competing Astros team. He also pitches long into games, which will do wonders for my ratios and give me a chance to compete in these categories.

Dylan Cease was a consensus top pitcher entering 2023, but disappointed many fantasy managers. I am hoping for a bounce-back, but he will still produce high strikeout numbers even if he struggles. In addition, he is rumored to be on the trade block, and if he goes to a contender, his win total could be relatively high. 

While I only drafted my first starting pitcher in Round 5 in Valdez, RowdyRotoJB waited until Round 11 to select his first in Chris Bassitt from the Toronto Blue Jays. Instead, JB selected two high-end relievers (Devin Williams, as mentioned before, and Emmanuel Clase), which will provide him with significant saves and strong ratios.  

There are several ways to approach pitching categories. You can emphasize pitchers that will tally strikeouts and on good teams for wins or focus on grabbing top-tier closers to provide you saves and strong ratios.


What Infield Positions Can Be Faded?

The final component of the draft I would like to discuss is what infield positions you could “fade.” If I wanted to target outfielders early and grab pitchers who produce high strikeout totals, which infield position was getting the least attention?

I ended up as the final team to select their starting shortstop. I had several opportunities to choose an option early, such as Elly De La Cruz in the third (I opted for Luis Robert Jr.) and in the mid-rounds when I selected Christian Yelich and Dylan Cease over Dansby Swanson, Xander Bogaerts, and Anthony Volpe.

I finally drafted Thairo Estrada in Round 14 to fill that position. Estrada provided me with a solid number of stolen bases and a good batting average and was a counter to many of my sluggers like Cal Raleigh and Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who lack speed. 

If I had the chance to re-do a selection, I would have opted to draft a higher-end shortstop. Even though I missed out on a high-end shortstop, I was able to pivot to strengthen other aspects of my roster and did not reach for a shortstop for the sake of it. I waited until I found the opportunity to select my starter when the ADP was worth the investment. 

Fernando Tatis Jr. no longer plays shortstop. Trevor Story has suffered several injuries and has yet to return to form, and many other former top-tier options like Javier Baez have had significant struggles. A lot of established shortstops are no longer relevant, which makes this position quite difficult to assess. 

Players like Francisco Lindor, Bo Bichette, or even the now-discounted Corey Seager could provide a significant advantage compared to previous years when looking at the shortstop position.

Let’s take a look at backstops. Adley Rutschman will be a clear outlier in your home draft as he was selected in Round 4 by StickStickly21, three rounds before the second backstop went off the board. However, the question will be is the early investment worth it? 

The primary reason is not that he is an excellent hitter; instead, he played 46 games at DH, showing that he is penciled to be in the lineup every day. Rutschman is drafted in this tier not only because he is an excellent hitter but should lead the position in games played.

If I were to draft Rutschman in my leagues, I would target two outfielders before him and potentially either a shortstop or corner infielder in the third before selecting the backstop in the fourth. If he were to go before his current ADP of 49.5, it might be challenging to build a balanced team around him.  

For the other 11 teams that passed up on the Oriole, some found their backstop in Rounds 7 and 8 while others waited until the mid-double-digit rounds. Many catchers in this range, like Salvador Perez, Cal Raleigh, Yainer Diaz, and Sean Murphy, have their respective upsides as well as significant concerns.  

While you will be gaining a potential advantage if you target an early catcher, it does make roster construction a tad more complex. It may be more effective to target a younger backstop in this later range and invest in the upside, which in turn will allow you the opportunity to draft better bats at other positions early on.  

Mock drafts are an excellent way to practice different strategies and simulate what to do when your plan goes awry. Participating in many mock drafts is time-consuming for sure, but the more you take part, the more you won’t be surprised by what comes your way on draft day. 

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