The 2017 MLB season is right around the corner and that means it’s almost time for fantasy baseball league drafts. While there are certain hitters that fill up all five categories for fantasy owners or provide enough value that they are obvious first round picks, there are other first-round selections that could change how you approach your entire draft altogether. Here is a look at five fantasy baseball first round picks that should completely alter your draft strategy.
SP: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
The best pitcher in the game will be only 29 on Opening Day so he should have more than enough juice left in the tank for another dominant season. Kershaw owns a career 2.37 ERA and he has topped 10 K.9 in each of the last three seasons so he should definitely be one of the top pitchers off of the board. The only issue with Kershaw is that he has missed time in two of the last three seasons so you need to be aware about any potential injury issues that could come with his selection. Selecting Kershaw in the first round will put your offense a step behind early in the draft so you will need to adjust your strategy to build around him if you decide to take him early.
2B: Jose Altuve, Houston Astros
Altuve has hit .331 over the last three years with an average of 15 home runs, 41 stolen bases, 93 runs and 74 RBI from a middle infield position and he could be in line for a career year. Altuve has been moved deeper in to the Houston lineup so while the stolen base totals have dipped a little bit his power production has improved. Altuve provides enough overall value that he could be a first round pick but if you take him you will have to understand that he will only provide some stolen base value with a likely need to look elsewhere to boost your potential in that category.
3B/SS: Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles
Machado is turning 24 this season so he is only now entering his prime as a hitter with back-to-back 30-home run, 100-run seasons. When you consider his value at both third base and shortstop it’s clear that he has the potential to be an elite fantasy hitter for years to come. However, one area he can’t be relied on in is steals, as his total in 2016 dipped from 20 to zero as Baltimore relied more on power than on speed. Machado is a solid power contributor at a key position but he won’t help with stolen bases and you will likely need to add more power behind him in order to maximize the potential in the home run and RBI categories.
OF: Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals
Harper took a step back in 2016 after leading the majors in on base and slugging at just 22-years-old the previous season. However, 2016 will likely prove to be an aberration as the talented young slugger looks to bounce back this coming season. Harper had played through an injury that limited his ability to produce solid contact last season but he is back at full strength and looking for redemption in 2017. Harper is a solid hitter that should provide plenty of home runs and RBI but even with his elite ability you will need to focus on runs and stolen bases as well as the power categories in order to build around him in your draft.
SS/2B/OF: Trea Turner, Washington Nationals
Washington’s second entry on this list was an absolute beast in 73 games last season when he hit .342 with 13 home runs and 40 RBI in 307 plate appearances. Turner also provided 33 stolen bases as one of the most complete young hitters in the game and it will be very interesting to see what he has in store for 2017. Turner’s overall average could regress a little bit based on his BABIP and BABIP on fly balls but he should still put up excellent numbers. The Nationals slugger is worth grabbing relatively early but if you do draft him in the first round you will likely want to commit to offense early with a power hitter that can help compliment the complete arsenal that Turner brings ot the table in order to maximize your potential in the offensive categories.
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