Like an upscale dish at a five-star restaurant, you need to find that perfect wine pairing to enhance your meal. Imagine your draft is that dish, you can only enhance your first round choice by finding that perfect second round player. Let me be your draft guide to find that perfect pairing.
Last year I did a similar 1st/2nd round pairing article and really enjoyed it, so I decided to bring it back. I only did 3 total pairs last year, but I decided why not go through the whole first round? I am going to be splitting the article into two, and the second half of the first round should be out sometime early next week. All ADP’s will be taken from the NFBC data collected, and all the projections are taken from Depth Charts (No projection system is perfect, so take it with a grain of salt). You know the common saying, you can’t win your league in the first two rounds of the draft, but you can lose it. Well, I want to help you not lose it.
Mike Trout/Anthony Rizzo (.296/73HR/215R/214RBI/29SB)
You know what the sexiest part of Mike Trout is? That he pairs with nearly anything, he is like the avocado of the fantasy baseball world. Want more power in your lineup? Then when you hit the end of the second round you can pair Trout with Anthony Rizzo and you will be looking at a potential 73HR/215R/214RBI/29SB combined slash. If you want to add more team speed and lock down the steals category, then you can add Dee Gordon. Whichever direction you decide you will have a wonderful start to your team. Trout is truly the king of all 5 categories and pairs well with any type of player.
Jose Altuve/Freddie Freeman (.300/ 50HR/185R/185RBI/31SB)
Here’s another 5-category superstar. Like Trout, Altuve gives you a plethora of options heading into the 2nd round. In mock drafts, when drafting out of the 2 spot I typically see myself taking Freddie Freeman. Freeman, like Altuve, is going to give you a high average. The lefty has hit .300+ in each of the last two seasons and has developed his power stroke. After hitting just 36 HR total between them in 2014 and 2015, he slugged 62 in the last two seasons. The projections for the pair seem lower than I would expect and bakes in some regression across the board from Altuve’s MVP season. I would not be shocked to look back on the combined slash and find it less than what they actually produced.
Paul Goldschmidt/Cody Bellinger ( .271/70HR/186R/203RBI/26SB)
Goldy is a personal favorite of mine, but even I don’t think we will be seeing another 30+ stolen base season from him. He has still stolen 15+ bases in 5-out-of-6 seasons in the major league which is excellent for a first baseman. The stolen bases from a 1B position that typically is thin leaves you room to get flexible with your 2nd selection. Depth Charts projects Goldy to have .290/32HR/99R/99RBI/16SB fantasy slash for the 2018 season. The well-roundedness of Goldschmidt’s stats gives you options across the board, you can go for an SP at the end of the 2nd round and try to snag Strasburg or Bumgarner. You can also get a middle infielder like Lindor who will give you more speed. I find myself typically trying to snag Bellinger at this point and with his OF eligibility starting both Goldy and Bellinger is possible, and it is beautiful.
Trea Turner/Cody Bellinger (.275/54HR/180R/169RBI/58SB
Oh man, this is might be my favorite combination on this list. While both Turner and Bellinger are still young, they have already shown they can produce in the MLB. Together they can give you a nice blend of power and speed that our earlier pairs have lacked. Depth Charts projects 48 SB for Turner, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see him pushing into the mid-50’s. Both players hit in premier NL lineups so they could even push ahead of that 180 run mark. When taking Turner early in the first, you are going to sacrifice some team power which means in the later rounds you should be looking to target some power bats like Josh Donaldson or Brian Dozier.
Nolan Arenado/Francisco Lindor(.295/66HR/199R/206RBI/19SB)
Nolan Arenado aka Mr. Consistent. The man put together his third straight season of 35+ HR/95R/130RBI in 2017. He is the only player to put together a 100R/100RBI season in both 2016 and 2017. You know what you are going to get with Arenado, so he can be easy to find a match for. I find myself pairing him with one of the Indians infielders, either Jose Ramirez or Francisco Lindor. They both give a 15-20 SB increase, which is the one category that Arenado truly lacks. Lindor added 30+ HR power to his repertoire last season, which is still hard for me to fathom. If Lindor can replicate just 85% of that HR total from 2017, you may be looking at one of the deadliest combos in the draft.
Charlie Blackmon/Manny Machado (.294/62HR/192R/181RBI/25SB)
I know what you may be thinking; where’s Clayton Kershaw? His ADP according to NFBC data is 6th, but it is my thought process to not draft a starting pitcher in the first round in H2H leagues. This especially applies to pitchers that have been plagued with injuries and failed to throw more than 30 starts in 3 out of 4 seasons. I love Kershaw as much as the next guy, I promise I do, but he is just too big of a risk in the middle of the first round. However, I digress and will get to the next pairing.
While Blackmon is projected to go 6th or 7th in upcoming drafts, I truly have a hard time taking him over the likes of Betts or Harper. This is not to discount his monster 2017 season, but there are concerns in his game. His extreme Home/Road splits and age have me personally turned off. He does have the potential to replicate his 2017 season, but Depth Charts is down on him in their projections. Machado is more of a bounce-back candidate after a somewhat lackluster 2017 season. However, he managed to turn his season around with a .290/.326/.500 second half slash. Machado is in an odd position, because he may be asked to play SS for the Orioles, and when he gains that second eligibility, you may be looking at a more valuable piece. His 19.03 ADP makes him a second-round target for me if I end up with a middle or late first round selection.
So far we have maneuvered our way through my favorite pairings for the Top 6 players in the draft. In the second part of this article, I’ll finish off the first round. These are mostly subjective pairings and certainly not the only ones you can do. If you have any comments, concerns, or just want to ask me fantasy baseball questions, my twitter is @roto_perodeau.