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2023 Fantasy Baseball: Projecting The First Round

Just like that, the 2022 fantasy baseball season is behind us. It might still be October, but it’s never too early to look ahead to 2023 and begin preparation. That’s what we’ll be doing here at FantraxHQ all offseason, and I figured that looking at the top of 2023 fantasy baseball drafts was a good place to start. I’ll be projecting the first round (15-team roto) today and will project the second round in the coming days.

Honestly, this might be one of the more diverse and interesting batch of first-round players in recent memory. How high will Julio Rodriguez and Bobby Witt Jr go? Where do the pitchers land? How about Ronald Acuña Jr and Juan Soto?

Please note that these are not my personal rankings. This is just how I project the first round of 2023 ADP to be.

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2023 Fantasy Baseball: Projecting The First Round

1. Trea Turner (SS – LAD)

Some may scoff at this given the season that Aaron Judge just had, but I’m sticking with Trea Turner as the 1.1 for 2023 drafts. In my eyes, Turner offers the best combination of safety, upside, and a well-rounded offensive profile for fantasy purposes. After posting a 28/32 season in 2021 with a .328 AVG, 108 runs, and 77 RBI, Turner followed that up in 2022 with a .298 AVG, 101 runs, 21 homers, 100 RBI, and 27 steals. Even though it was slightly below his 2021 output, Turner still finished 5th on the Razzball Player Rater and was the only player in baseball to post a 100/20/100/20 season in 2022. The safety here leads me to believe that Turner will be the 1.1 for 2023 ADP.

2. Aaron Judge (OF – NYY)

Maybe I’m overthinking this. Obviously, Aaron Judge ran away from the field as the top fantasy player in 2022. In addition to setting the American League single-season home run record with 62, Judge also added 133 runs, 131 RBI, a .311 average, and even 16 steals just for the heck of it. His underlying metrics were just as impressive. Judge posted a ridiculous 26.5% barrel rate, 95.9 mph AVG EV, and 61.8% hard-hit rate while also ranking in the top-1% of hitters in xBA, xSLG, xwOBA, and xwOBAcon. Any way you slice and dice it, Judge had a historic season both in real-life and for fantasy. However, he also hasn’t exactly been a beacon of durability over his career, so I wonder if that pushes him behind Turner in 2023 ADP. Again, maybe I’m overthinking this.

3. Jose Ramirez (3B – CLE)

Entering 2022, Jose Ramirez was in the running for the 1.1 in fantasy drafts. You can nitpick and say that his production fell off a bit in the 2nd half (.269/10/7) but the overall line at the end of the season was that of a top-10 value without question. Ramirez finished with another 20/20 season (29/20), marking the fourth straight full season in which he did so. He also added a career-best 126 RBI while slashing .280/.355/.514 and adding in 90 runs scored. Some of his QoC metrics dipped this season, mainly his barrel and hard-hit rates, but some of that can be attributed to various minor ailments throughout the season. It’s possible we’ve already seen peak JoRam, but there’s no reason why he can’t perform as a top 5-10 player again in 2023.

4. Julio Rodriguez (OF – SEA)

The thought of a 21-year-old 2nd-year player being a top-3 pick in 2023 is bonkers. However, when that player happens to be a generational talent like Julio Rodriguez coming off a generational rookie campaign, it’s definitely warranted. Rodriguez finished his rookie season with a .284/.345/.509 slash line, 84 runs, 28 homers, 75 RBI, and 25 steals. The only other rookie to post a .280+/80+/25+/75+/25+ line in his rookie season was some guy named Michael Nelson Trout. Pretty good name to be associated with. Rodriguez’s metrics were also stellar with a 13.1% barrel rate, 92 mph AVG EV, 50.7% hard-hit rate, along with a 97th percentile sprint speed. The fact that Rodriguez has added 20+ steals to his stellar profile with the bat makes him one of the best players in the game already with a real shot at .300/100/35/100/25 in 2023. He’s just getting started.

4. Shohei Ohtani (SP/UT – LAA)

Let me begin by saying it’s downright impossible to put Shohei Ohtani in the correct spot for an article like this given how different he’s handled and valued from platform to platform and league to league. In daily lineup leagues where he’s dual eligible, Ohtani is easily the #1 overall pick. But for this article, I’ll put him 4th as that’s where I believe he’ll fall in ADP for weekly lineup leagues. According to the Razzball Player rater, hitter Ohtani ranked 15th and pitcher Ohtani 32nd. When you’re essentially receiving two top-30 players with one draft pick, that’s fantasy gold. Ohtani’s ability to do the below once again in 2023 makes him a top-5 pick in any format and #1 overall for daily leagues.

  • Hitting: 666 PA, .276/.356/.519, 90 R, 34 HR, 95 RBI, 11 SB, 10.8% BB, 24.2% K, .243 ISO, .370 wOBA, 142 wRC+, 16.8% BRL, 49.8% HH
  • Pitching: 28 GS, 166 IP, 2.33 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 6.7% BB, 33.2% K, .202 BAA, 14.9% SwStr, 33% Whiff, 2.68 xERA

And another undervalued aspect of Ohtani’s profile is that he’s accumulated the 18th most PA over the last two seasons while also pitching the 51st most innings. Elite production AND volume. For those that receive only one Ohtani or the other, I’d put him in the 15-20 range as a hitter and 40ish for overall ADP as a pitcher.

6. Ronald Acuña Jr. (OF – ATL)

If you’re like me and are giving Ronald Acuña Jr a pass for his mortal season this year, you’ll probably wind up with plenty of shares in 2023. In 533 PA, Acuña posted a 16-homer, 29-steal campaign, but that’s not quite what we were expecting. But here’s the thing, Acuña was coming back from a major knee injury/surgery which likely limited his power a bit and cause his massive groundball rate spike. What we saw this season was likely his floor. With another six months of time to put himself further and further away from that knee surgery, Acuña could very well bounce back to the elite fantasy numbers that made him a top-5 player in all formats.

7. Juan Soto (OF – SDP)

It wasn’t exactly a stellar season for Juan Goato Soto in 2022. Thanks to massive peaks and valleys, Soto finished with an un-Soto-like .242/.401/.452 slash line to go along with 91 runs, 27 home runs, 63 RBI, and six steals. While Soto wasn’t his usual self, many of his metrics were still highly impressive and part of that RBI total can be blamed on the ineptitude of Washington’s lineup around him. What we just witnessed in 2022 was Soto’s floor and that still brought 93 runs, 27 home runs, and a .401 OBP. Soto’s metrics were still top-notch as well, including a 12.4% barrel rate, 47.4% hard-hit rate, and his usual elite approach metrics. The back half of the first round is going to be an ideal spot to be if Soto and Acuña are going to fall to that range.

8. Kyle Tucker (OF – HOU)

A total of nine players went 20/20 this season. That list shortens to four when raising the threshold to 25/25. And when you raise it to 30/25, the only man left standing is Kyle Tucker. Entering 2022, Tucker was a borderline first-round pick and those that invested in him have to be happy with his overall production. In addition to his 30 dingers and 25 steals, Tucker added 107 RBI, 71 runs, and a .257/.330/.488 slash line. He continued displaying a sound plate approach with solid quality of contact metrics as well. And looking at his plate discipline metrics, I’m banking on Tucker’s AVG climbing back up a bit in 2023 as well. Given that he’s one of a small handful of players with this level of 5-category production and entering his peak physical years, Tucker is a no-doubt top-12 pick for 2023 drafts.

9. Mookie Betts (OF – LAD)

The inconsistency month to month made you pull your hair out, but it’s hard to argue with the final line that Mookie Betts wound up with this season. In 639 PA, Betts racked up 117 runs, 35 home runs, 82 RBI, and 12 steals with a .269/.340/.533 slash line. At the end of the day, that’s what matters in roto formats. However, those in H2H formats will point out that he had two months (May and August) hitting .330 or above and was below .250 in every other month. Betts might not be the .300+ hitter that we saw in Boston anymore, but he’s still a back-end first round talent as a .260-.270 hitter as long as he continues providing double-digit steals. It wouldn’t surprise me to see the AVG tick back up in 2023 either given his stellar contact and approach metrics.

10. Yordan Alvarez (OF – HOU)

Yordan Alvarez was a force to be reckoned with this season. Outside of August when he was deadline with a hand injury that also brought an IL stint, Alvarez had a SLG of .540 or higher and 6+ home runs in every other month. He was also one of two players with three individual months of a .450+ wOBA and a wRC+ above 200. I’m sure you can figure out who the other name was. Overall, Yordan finished with a .306/.406/.613 slash line in 561 plate appearances with 37 home runs, 97 RBI, and 95 runs scored. He also vastly improved his approach this season with a 13.9% walk rate and 18.9% strikeout rate while maintaining elite QoC metrics (21% barrel, 59.8% hard-hit, 95.2 mph AVG EV).

11. Bobby Witt Jr. (SS/3B – KCR)

Thanks to Julio Rodriguez doing what he did, a 20/30 rookie season from Bobby Witt Jr somehow flies a tad under the radar. In addition to those 20 dingers and 30 steals, Witt added 82 runs, 80 RBI, and a .254 AVG. The detractors are here too though, mainly, Witt’s .294 OBP and 4.8% walk rate. If you’re in an OBP league, he’s probably more of a 2nd round pick. But given that he’s only the 4th rookie in the history of the sport to put up a 80+/20+/80+/30+ season, I’m sure he’s still going to be given serious consideration in the first round of drafts.

On top of that, Witt doesn’t whiff too much and posted solid contact rates to go along with a 100th-percentile sprint speed. Some people across MLB even consider him the fastest player in the league. And don’t forget, Witt displayed 30-homer pop in the minors. If he’s able to become a bit more patient with his approach in 2022 and make gains in his second full season, Witt going .270/100/25+/100/35+ isn’t out of the question. Seriously.

12. Corbin Burnes (SP – MIL)

If deGrom isn’t the first pitcher taken, that’s because Corbin Burnes was. Yes, Burnes wasn’t great in the second half, but we need to remember that he pitched the most innings of his career this season. Burnes finished with 202 innings this season which was the 4th most in baseball and 35 more than he tossed in 2021. I’m willing to give him a bit of a pass for his late-season “struggles” because of that. And even with those “struggles”, Burnes still ended 2022 with a stellar 2.94 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 6.4% walk rate, and 30.5% strikeout rate. Since the beginning of 2020, Burnes ranks 9th in innings pitched and in the top two for ERA, WHIP, K%, and K-BB% for pitchers with 300 innings. When you’re drafting a pitcher in the first round, Burnes checks off all the boxes.

13. Freddie Freeman (1B – LAD)

Many like going with the sexy first-round selections, but sexy doesn’t always win championships. Production wins championships and Freddie Freeman is arguably the safest bet to return first-round production in 2023. Freeman was one of just five players to exceed both 100 runs and 100 RBI this season. and he did so while adding 21 homers, 13 steals, and an elite .325/.407/.511 slash line. Sure, the power output was slightly disappointing, but Freeman provides elite production in R, RBI, and AVG with a power floor of 20 homers and a .500 SLG. Freeman’s QoC metrics were still very good as well with a 10.1% barrel rate, 91.3 mph AVG EV, and 48% hard-hit rate. He very easily could bounce back to the 25-30 home range next season and will continue to hit in the middle of baseball’s best lineup.

As one of the game’s best pure hitters and best power bats in a great lineup and home park, Alvarez is one of the few that could realistically go .300+/100+/40+/100+ next season. And the cherry on this majestic sundae is the outfield eligibility he’ll retain on all platforms. No more having to worry about drafting a UTIL-Only player in the first two rounds.

14. Bryce Harper (OF – PHI)

There are several hitters I could’ve put here, but ultimately landed on Bryce Harper. A broken thumb cost Harper two months of action, but he was still a first-round talent when on the field. In 426 plate appearances, Harper racked up 63 runs, 18 home runs, 65 RBI, and 11 steals with a .286/.364/.514 slash line. That’s a bit down from his .309/.429/.615 slash line from 2021, but Harper’s end-of-season swoon after returning from injury can be attributed to that. Before landing on the IL, Harper was slashing .318/.386/.599 with a 650 PA pace of 116 runs, 35 home runs, 113 RBI, and 21 SB. The QoC metrics and approach are still top-notch. All Harper needs to do is avoid the IL in 2023 and he’s likely a first-round value once again. Let’s just hope his elbow is fine.

15. Jacob deGrom (SP – NYM)

With how many big-name arms performed down the stretch, projecting where they land in 2023 ADP is difficult. I’m nearly 100% sure no pitcher will have a top-5 ADP in roto formats, but a few could sneak inside the top-10 ADP ranks, and Jacob deGrom is a candidate to be there. It just really depends on how risk-averse you are in the drafts, especially in the first few rounds. A rough final few starts pushed his season ERA up to 3.08 (GASP), but there’s really no questioning who the best pitcher in the game is right now.

Outside of that ERA, deGrom’s WHIP sat at 0.91 and he led the Majors with a ridiculous 39.4% K-BB rate this season. If you can get 140+ innings out of deGrom in 2023, this pick will likely be justified. However, he hasn’t reached that plateau since 2019 and is probably the riskiest name in this article to take in the first round.

Media Credit: Cut4, MLB, Talkin’ Baseball, Blake Harris, Ben Verlander

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  1. Bart says

    Bobby Witt?! Wow, I hope someone in my league drafts him in the 1st round! He of the .250 avg and sub-.300 oba!! He’s young, so worth a shot as a top 100 draft pick, but DEFINITELY NOT a top 50. Seems like you are drafting him for stolen bases only….which in my league don’t matter much.

    1. Eric Cross says

      Do you mean the rookie who was one of 4 rookies ever with an 80+/20+/80+/30+ rookie season? The rookie who was one of 27 players to go 80+/20+/80+ in 2022 and the ONLY one of those 27 to also add 30 SB? The rookie who showed more power and patience in the minors and with realistic growth in his 2nd season has a legit chance at .270/90+/25+/90+/35+? Yeah, he’s going to be a first-rounder and no lower than a top-25 pick at the absolute least.

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