Stressed over your First Round pick? You can relax.


Matt Kemp was a trendy #1 overall selection last year, but it was actually

Mike Trout

who returned fantasy best value. Photo courtesy of Sam Galvez.

My grammie would always say, “If I’ve heard that once, I’ve heard that a 100 times.” And you’re going to trust the truth of something you’ve heard a hundred times, am I right?

Well, I’ve heard a hundred times that fantasy baseball leagues are won or lost in the first round. But that’s nonsense.

Don’t get me wrong, you don’t want to intentionally tank your first round pick by drafting Yunel Escobar, but there isn’t reason to lose sleep over the pick either. I drafted Troy Tulowitzski in the first round last year and went on to win my very competitive league. You grab a quick substitute that helps you in a category that’s close, you maybe make a quick trade, you speculate on who may be on the upswing, you move a guy or two around, and – voila! – you’re back in the saddle. I’m not saying it’s fun to piece together a position when you lose someone that you’re expecting to be such a big cog, but it’s a fact of fantasy baseball that it can be done.

And you may need to do it more than you realize. Take this sample 1st Round from 2012:

Overall PickPlayer
1Albert Pujols, LAA, 1B
2Miguel Cabrera, Det, 1B
3Matt Kemp, LAD, OF
4Jose Bautista, Tor, 3B, OF
5Troy Tulowitzki, Col, SS
6Ryan Braun, Mil, OF
7Jacoby Ellsbury, Bos, OF
8Justin Upton, Ari, OF
9Robinson Cano, NYY, 2B
10Joey Votto, Cin, 1B
11Adrian Gonzalez, Bos, 1B
12Ian Kinsler, Tex, 2B

Some might pick nits on a player here and there, but considering this was a real National Fantasy Baseball Championship (NFBC) draft, we can all agree that’s it’s pretty a pretty fair representation.

And if you look closely you’ll see that only Miguel Cabrera, Ryan Braun, and Robinson Cano returned true first round value, a whopping 25% success rate. A shocking number placed into context of all the fantasy baseball writing that tells you the sole function of your first round pick is to minimize risk. Do fantasy baseball drafters simply love risky picks or are we simply in a risky business?

Taking this further, 7 years of research has shown that we get our first round selections correct roughly only 40% of the time, which isn’t surprising because between 44% and 51% of MLB players lose time due to injuries, suspensions, demotions, etc. over the course of a season. It’s a tough business folks.

A few other fun tidbits the research has shown:

  • Over the last decade or so, two thirds of Top 15 players weren’t in the Top 15 the next year. 
  • As stated above, there is a great deal of turnover in the first round, year-over-year.
  • First time first rounders only repeat 15% of the time.
  • Even established superstars are not guaranteed to repeat.

Wow, that’s all very depressing and started by saying you could relax over your first round pick!

Just do your homework, make a reasoned choice, but know that there are no guarantees. Nash gave a good primer on this year’s first round and it won’t be free of risk either. Give it a read and peek at our Draft Kit where share a little risk assessment tool.

But relax. A $40 player can slam into a wall like a $4 player, but is ten times harder to replace. But replace him you can. I wrote this to let you know that – YES – your first rounder is important, but don’t let it tie you in knots. Things don’t always pan out the way you’d hope, but that won’t mean your season is lost.