If you could handpick your draft position, which slot would you choose? Given that slot, what would you consider to be your "perfect" first three selections, assuming everything went your way?
Eric Karabell: Nothing against the difficult decision awaiting fantasy owners with the very first pick in the draft -- or is it tough at all? -- but I almost always heart picking last. Sure, it would be nice to select Jose Altu -- er, I mean, Mike Trout, but getting a chance at two of the top 11 players in a 10-team draft is simply better. You start the trends. Do not be tied to what ADP tells you.
Since the way I often end up selecting a player is with a process that narrows a list down to two options, why not choose both options? Having consecutive picks is a very good thing, and I never worry about the long lag in time before my next selection because if I want a player, I simply take the player -- as long as the value is not foolish. I have no issue going one or two rounds earlier for a player because nobody can guarantee the exact statistics any player is actually going to give you.
As a result and based on ADP for this exercise, I would say being able to select a top hitter at pick No. 10 along with one of the top tier of starting pitchers to kick off Round 2 in a roto-style format is ideal. After all, if you get Altu -- er, I mean Trout, then you're not going to get any of the top hurlers (who are all being drafted prior to pick No. 20) and you might find yourself reaching for an arm in Round 4. After that, chances are about 99.9 percent I will target the best hitter on the board in Round 3, regardless of position.
Looking at early ADP, I would say the perfect top three selections for a roto draft would be Colorado Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon, currently somehow No. 10 in ADP, followed immediately by Washington Nationals right-hander Max Scherzer, whom I would take first among the pitchers anyway. Seattle Mariners designated hitter Nelson Cruz would be my next pick. Cruz is foolishly slipping well past that slot in drafts solely because he is eligible only at DH -- despite four consecutive seasons with 39-plus home runs. Nobody else has achieved this in more than two of those four seasons. I ranked Cruz quite a bit higher than his ADP, and I am more than willing to ignore said ADP to get players I want.
The picks: Blackmon, Scherzer, Cruz
Tristan H. Cockcroft: I think people often spend too much time sweating things like their draft position -- it's one of the reasons I'm such a proponent of auctions -- but if given the choice this season, in the head-to-head categories format, I'd want to have either the No. 2 pick or the No. 8 position, because I see there being steep drop-offs in my first-round rankings after both of those spots -- with that falloff being greater after the second pick goes off the board.
If I were to construct a "dream draft" using widely available ADP data (including those from other sites), I'd hope that the team selecting first preferred Jose Altuve, leaving me with the Los Angeles Angels star and American League MVP favorite in Round 1. Francisco Lindor is both my No. 19 overall ranked player as well as 19th in ESPN ADP and would make an ideal second-round pick. I'd be thrilled to then add Jose Ramirez to the mix to give myself a great amount of balance on the hitting side, as well as to address two-thirds of my middle infield, affording me the luxury of sitting back and adding the third member when the value seems right. That's three five-category rotisserie performers, and they're a dying breed.
The picks: Trout, Lindor, Ramirez
From the No. 8 spot, a dream arrangement would have Trea Turner still on the board, as our ADP currently indicates he might be, though a more realistic dream scenario would have Paul Goldschmidt as the pick. That would set up a second-round pick of Manny Machado. I'd go with a cheaper-pitching strategy in this arrangement -- just as I would if I had the second overall pick. George Springer would be my third-rounder, which again would provide me with at least a decent start in the stolen bases category. Another benefit of selecting Machado is that he provides some roster flexibility, bringing in third base eligibility while effectively certain to add shortstop in the season's first two weeks.
The picks: Goldschmidt, Machado, Springer
AJ Mass: In most seasons, I've always preferred to pick in the middle of the round, so as to minimize the wait between selections. When picking at the ends of the snake, with 18 picks in between my selections, I often find that it's hard not to be reactive in the draft, as I'm often left with just one player remaining in the top tier at multiple positions, so my choices are often made for me.
That said, in points leagues this season, there's a huge advantage in selecting either first or second overall. I'm fine building a team with either Trout or Altuve, but given what I feel is a relatively top-heavy outfield position this year, I'd prefer to end up with Trout. But I'd also rather pick No. 2 so that on the return selection, I get a chance to steer the snake -- rather than react to it -- by grabbing Kenley Jansen at No. 19. I have Jansen ranked with first-round value. I know that's a bit of an out-of-the-box placement, so I won't have to grab him in Round 1 to get him, but I also know I won't be able to wait until Round 4.
My third-round pick is going to be the best hitter on the board. My points-league strategy is to monopolize the closer market, so I'm not going to worry about the very real likelihood that all four elite SPs will be gone by now. While crazy things sometimes happen in drafts and a first-round talent may somehow land in my lap at No. 22, I'm going to assume that doesn't happen and happily add my second outfielder in J.D. Martinez here. That will give me what I feel are three top-15 talents in my first three picks and a solid foundation to build upon for the rest of the proceedings.
The picks: Trout, Jansen, Martinez
Kyle Soppe: I don't care what the format is -- in order to build a solid foundation, I want to be sitting in one of the first two spots. Period. The security that comes with nabbing a Trout or Altuve is obviously appealing, but beyond that, the Round 2-3 turn is also loaded with players who can lay the groundwork for a successful season. In my perfect draft, I'm kicking it off with Mike Trout and following up with the tandem of Francisco Lindor and Madison Bumgarner.
I don't think I have to walk you through why Trout is good, and the combination of safety and upside is nothing short of elite for my next two picks. The 24-year-old Lindor has missed a total of seven games over the past two seasons. He has rare 30/20 potential while batting at the top of an elite offense. Bumgarner threw 200-plus innings in six seasons prior to 2017 and was the only pitcher with a sub-3.00 ERA and at least 200 innings pitched in all four seasons from 2013 to 2016.
I've got Lindor as the second-best shortstop on the board this season, and Bumgarner, in my opinion, will turn our Big Four tier of starting pitchers into a Party of Five heading into 2019. Adding this duo to the best player in baseball seems like a good way to build a winner in 2018.
The picks: Trout, Lindor, Bumgarner