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Fantasy Baseball 2021: Overrated, underrated and safest picks in Rounds 1-3

Mo Castillo
·7-min read

Using a mix of Yahoo’s average draft position (ADP) and staff rankings that create a composite score among three Yahoo analysts, we will present a road map through the first 100 picks to come off the board in a typical Fantasy Baseball draft.

By breaking things down into segments of 10 picks at a time (as part of a larger three-part series) to highlight the safest bet, plus an underrated and overrated player, you are sure to come away with a more streamlined and less overwhelming way to plot out a course for a successful draft. While unexpected twists and turns develop in any draft and league sizes vary, walking in as prepared as can be is the best way to come out with a competitive squad.

All staff composite rankings and ADP data are to date as 3-14, and subject to change.

Picks 1-30 (below) | Picks 31-60 | Picks 61-100

Picks 1-10

Safest Bet: Mookie Betts, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers (ADP: 3 / Staff Composite Ranking: 3)

If I could pick Jacob deGrom here every year, I would — but that's no fun.

Mookie Betts is just ridiculously good. A true five-tool player, Betts has been an elite option in the outfield his entire career, and his addition was crucial in the Dodgers finally securing that World Series championship in the shortened 2020 season.

[Draft Rankings: C | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | OF | SP | RP]

You know you're getting 25+ home runs with Betts. You know you're getting an average of .290 or better with Betts. You know you're getting double-digit steals with Betts. He gets on base and knows what to do when he does. He probably has another 100-100 campaign in him now that he'll play full seasons as part of the Dodgers' loaded lineup. Betts is arguably the most talented hitter in baseball this side of Mike Trout. Don't overthink this.

Underrated: Trea Turner, SS, Washington Nationals (ADP: 8 / Staff Composite Ranking: 8)

Trea Turner has been a perennial first-rounder for what seems like a while now, but doesn't it still seem like he gets overlooked for whatever shiny new player makes the leap into the top of drafts?

Turner doesn't have many negatives. He can lock up the stolen base category on his own and, not to mention, he will almost certainly hit for a .285+ average with double-digit home runs. It helps to have phenom Juan Soto batting after you too. With his prowess on the basepaths, Turner's argument for being higher up the ADP pecking order isn't so farfetched.

Overrated: Shane Bieber, SP, Cleveland Indians (ADP: 9 / Staff Composite Ranking: 11)

Shane Bieber has filthy, filthy stuff. His strikeout ability is well-documented. I have no qualms about him being one of the top pitchers available in drafts.

With that said, his 2020 production — 122 Ks in 77.1 IP, 1.63 ERA, 0.87 WHIP — well, I think we can all agree that was the high end of the spectrum for Bieber (his BABIP last season was .267 while his career mark sits at .312). I'm not drafting him expecting the same. He remains elite, but the chances of him replicating those numbers in a full season are few and far between.

Shane Bieber, lanzador de los Indios de Cleveland
You might be disappointed if you're expecting a repeat of 2020 for Shane Bieber. (AP Foto/Paul Sancya, archivo)

Picks 11-20

Safest bet: Trevor Story, SS, Colorado Rockies (ADP: 13 / Staff Composite Ranking: 10)

Personally, I'd draft Trevor Story in the first round in any format. The 28-year-old gets to call Coors Field home and enjoy all the benefits that come with that, including 30+ home run capability. He also delivers a nice batting average and has threatened the 100-100 plateau seemingly every year. Give me the star hitter of Colorado any day of the week.

Of course, if the Rockies decide trading Nolan Arenado wasn't enough and end up trading Story too, well ...

Underrated: Yu Darvish, SP, San Diego Padres (ADP: 20 / Staff Composite Ranking: 17)

Full disclosure: I have been a Yu Darvish stan for a while now, and his performance in the shortened 2020 season just further strengthened my warm and fuzzy feelings for him.

Now, he'll pitch for a Padres team that has fashioned itself the squad to dethrone the Dodgers.

Darvish was absolutely masterful in 2020, and while he's not expected to replicate those numbers this season, a low-3s ERA with 200 strikeouts is well within reach for him. He'll get to pitch in one of the top pitcher-parks in baseball, with a powerful Padres lineup backing him up. I like Darvish higher in the second round, above such names as Cody Bellinger and Manny Machado.

Overrated: Walker Buehler, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers (ADP: 17 / Staff Composite Ranking: 20)

26-year-old Walker Buehler is a fantastic young pitcher, capable of taking over a game and locking it down. But there are two things working against him in 2021.

One, the Dodgers are always looking towards the postseason, so they will look to limit the innings of their pitchers as much as they can — and they can, when you consider the depth they have.

Two, Buehler's BABIP in 2020 was a minuscule .198, but all that luck amounted to a 3.44 ERA and a very-not-great 4.36 FIP; not what you want to see out of a member of the Dodgers rotation. I don't think he supplants Clayton Kershaw as the true ace of LA anytime soon.

Picks 21-30

Safest bet: Xander Bogaerts, SS, Boston Red Sox (ADP: 23 / Staff Composite Ranking: 28)

Bogaerts is good. A standard Bogaerts line looks a bit something like .285/.355/.450, with 20+ homer power and an element of speed. Feels like he gets a bit overlooked in the grand scheme of things, but just look at his body of work the last six seasons.

In fact, look at his 2019: .309/.384/.555, 110 R, 117 RBI, 33 HR, and a BABIP only .06 points higher than his career mark. Yes, please.

Underrated: Jack Flaherty, SP, St. Louis Cardinals (ADP: 30 / Staff Composite Ranking: 30)

Everything that could've gone bad for Flaherty did in 2020. His BABIP was 20 points higher than his career mark and his HR/FB ballooned by eight percentage points, both helping aid his 4.91 ERA finish. Ultimately, Flaherty's control suffered and he was unable to keep men off base.

I don't believe what we saw was the true Jack Flaherty, though. His velocity and strikeout capability remained the same or similar to his 2019 output, when he was an absolute ace. I chalk up the struggles of last year to the start-and-stop, mentally exhausting nature of the 2020 season — especially when you consider the season was paused right when it was about to be Flaherty's turn to start again. Uninterrupted repetition and routine matters with starting pitchers. This is, of course, the issue with 2021 fantasy baseball; how much of 2020 struggle and success should be attributed to the unprecedented nature of the season?

All that said, with a full training camp and season ahead, I think Flaherty will bounce back and be fine.

Overrated: Adalberto Mondesi, SS, Kansas City Royals (ADP: 28 / Staff Composite Ranking: 26)

If this seems obvious, it is, so I'll keep it simple. I personally like to use the first three rounds to grab two multi-category hitters and one ace, or two aces and one four-to-five category hitter. In theory, this hitter (or hitters) will have double-digit stolen-base speed.

I am not going to use an early draft pick on a player like Mondesi, who dominates one category but hurts you pretty much everywhere else. He's probably one of the most debated players in fantasy baseball. Round 3 is too early to select Mondesi in my book.