It’s fantasy baseball draft time. With that comes a discussion over who the 1.01 should be.
I broke down the more conventional 1.01 picks last week (check that article out here), but who wants to go for the conventional choice? Spice things up, go big, go for that home-run pick. Now, that doesn’t mean you should be drafting Brent Suter with that number one pick, but going for a less-established high-ceiling guy may pay dividends. You don’t want a guy that’ll have your league-mates questioning your judgment, but you do want them to think to themselves: “what does he know that I don’t?” These guys should be young, but should still have track records. With a generational 2022 rookie class, your targets should be sophomores looking to make the big jump to superstardom.
Here are a couple of guys who fit the bill and could be your 1.01:
Can the most esoteric player in pro baseball replicate his incredible rookie year?
The mustachioed Maddux had a breakout season in his rookie year for the Atlanta Braves. In his first season, Strider became the fantasy SP1 with a 152 ERA+, 1.83 FIP, and 95th-99th percentile rankings in K%, expected ERA, and expected BA, SLG, and WOBA. Working with only 2 pitches (a 98 mph heater and an even more lethal slider), Strider has drawn comps to some of the greatest hurlers in baseball history. Strider has the ceiling of a bonafide SP1 in just his second year of major league baseball. Plus, really, really cool mustache.
In all honesty, there’s not much that lends to the idea that Strider’s rookie season was a mirage. Maybe his walk rates were a bit high, but that’s the type of thing that only lowers as a pitcher ages. The only argument against Strider is that there are plenty of guys who can produce comparable fantasy value in 2023 value. While I do think that Strider will end up as the SP1 in 2023 as well, guys like Dylan Cease and Sandy Alcantara, in all likelihood, won’t trail far behind Strider in the fantasy conversation.
Is it finally Captain America’s turn to be the league’s best catcher?
Adley Rutschman was hyped up as the savior of the Baltimore Orioles since he was drafted, and he’s delivered. After years of baseball destitution, Baltimore nearly made the playoffs in Adley’s first year (with a 63-50 record in games Adley played). In just 113 games, Adley was a 5 bWAR player with a 128 OPS+ and a 14% walk rate. Outside of JT Realmuto and Alejandro Kirk, there aren’t many elite picks for the catcher position. Henceforth, Rutschman has MVP-type potential, and that is potential that can’t be overlooked in fantasy baseball drafts.
He is a catcher, so his value will be head-and-shoulders above anyone else eligible at the position, but it’s a boring pick. Flashier picks like Shohei Ohtani and Aaron Judge are going to produce more fantasy points (Adley is in the 80th percentile for most hitting stats). But again, Adley may have the best positional value in the sport.
The new face of baseball needs to produce at the level of a face of baseball
Julio Rodriguez is the next great 5-tool outfielder. He proved just that in his rookie year, slashing .284/.345/.509 with a 147 OPS+ and 90th percentile rankings in EV, sprint speed, and barrels. With those impressive statistics came a 7th-place finish in AL MVP voting and a near-unanimous AL ROY win. There’s no doubt in my mind that an even better season is in the cards for Julio Rodriguez’s 2023 season. I’d take the over this year on Rodriguez getting to the 30-HR/30-SB benchmark. Similar to the 5-tool outfielders that preceded him, Rodriguez has the potential to be the league’s biggest superstar – and face, if we’re being real here.
While 5-tool outfielders are a rare commodity, guys like Byron Buxton, Mookie Betts, and Mike Trout are still in their primes. Each player has his own injury concerns, but give them a full season and they’ll produce just as much as Julio Rodriguez can. Maybe we should wait a couple of years before giving Julio the 1.01 spot.
Michael Harris II
Somehow underrated, even after his rookie of the year win.
Money Mike was just as, if not more, responsible than Strider for Atlanta’s 101-win season. But for some reason, he hasn’t garnered as much attention for his feats as the other rookies. The NL rookie of the year put up a 5 bWAR season with a 138 OPS+ in 113 games in his rookie year. While he was more stellar on defense than anything else, Harris was in the 80th percentile for most hitting peripherals.
There should be more hype surrounding Michael Harris, considering his production and talent is on par with Julio Rodriguez, but he’s still not there yet. His STEAMER projections have him at around 4 fWAR, so not as spectacular as it should get for Michael Harris II. His ADP should be in the 20s in 2023, but nowhere near 1.01.