Attacking your First-Year Player Draft in Win-Now Mode

Helpful tips on how to attack a first-year player draft in win-now mode

One of the trickiest parts of playing in a dynasty league is balancing your competitiveness with your desire to prepare for the future. This month, the Pitcher List dynasty team has worked hard to bring you the most relevant information surrounding first-year player drafts. We have hit everything from player breakdowns to our favorite sleeper picks. Before it all winds down with Martin’s First Year Player Draft Primer, this article looks at how to attack your draft with a win-now strategy in mind.


Ranking the Top Five


The top five for a contending team may look different than the top five for a rebuilding team. High school studs like Walker Jenkins or Max Clark come with as much or more upside than some of the more polished players in the draft. However, they also come with considerably more risk and an ETA that is likely still a few years away.


1) Wyatt Langford– OF, TEX


The top pick in FYPDs should not change whether you are contending or not. Wyatt Langford was incredible in his first full season of professional baseball. Langford made it to Triple-A slashing an incredible .360/.480/.677 with 10 home runs and 12 stolen bases. He has legitimate five-category upside and could be in the Rangers’ lineup as soon as Opening Day. Langford is as close to a lock to have Major League success as you can find and should be the 1.01 in all drafts.


2) Yoshinobu Yamamoto– SP, N/A


After Yamamoto, there is a bit more room for debate. In win-now mode, there is only one selection that makes sense to me. Yamamoto is a lock to contribute in 2024. He was dominant in the NPB this season posting a 1.16 ERA. Last year, there was much debate about where Kodai Senga should go in fantasy drafts. Senga wound up receiving down-ballot Cy-Young votes. Yamamoto could be as good and the best part for dynasty is that he is only 25 years old. He is a lock to help your fantasy teams this year and could be a front-line starter for years to come. If you want to read more about Yamamoto, keep your eye out for an article from Jake Maish coming out tomorrow on Pitcher List.


3) Dylan Crews– OF, WAS


Langford’s previously noted performance has cast a bit of a negative connotation around Crews. Crews was picked at the 1.02 but did not have quite as much success as Langford. Even in his “disappointing debut”, Crews still slashing .292/.377/.467. His struggles at Double-A indicate that he might need a bit more seasoning than Langford, but he should not be far behind. Crews will be 22 in February, and it should not take him long to reach the Major Leagues. The odds of him contributing much in 2024 are significantly lower than the first two names on this list, but there is still a chance. He has a ton of upside and should be third on your list of players to draft.


4) Paul Skenes– SP, PIT


The difference between Skenes and number five on this list really comes down to team depth. If you need a pitcher or want to draft somebody with a slightly higher chance of contributing in 2024, then Skenes is your guy.

The 1.01 from the 2023 draft only pitched 6.2 professional innings across five starts, but that does not mean you should forget about him. The Pirates were clearly willing to be aggressive with Skenes pushing him all of the way to Double-A before shutting him down. There is no reason we should expect anything less from them in 2024. Skenes has been praised as the best pitcher to enter the draft since Stephen Strasburg. After being drafted in 2009, Strasburg posted a 2.91 ERA across 68 Major League innings in 2010. We could see a similar result from Skenes and he should be fourth on your list of prospects to help you win in 2024.


5) Matt Shaw– SS, CHC


If you do not like the idea of taking a pitcher high, then Matt Shaw is the guy for you. Shaw does not receive the same type of love as Langford does, but his debut season was just as impressive. Across three different levels, Shaw slashed .357/.400/.618 with eight home runs and 15 stolen bases. Shaw’s collegiate track record is not as decorated as Langford’s, but the fantasy projections are just as enticing. The reason Shaw only ranks fifth on this list is the crowded infield ahead of him. Shaw will likely begin 2024 in Double-A and need to prove himself before earning a promotion. If he can make it to the Major Leagues, it will likely be at third base in place of Nick Madrigal/Patrick Wisdom.


Late First-Round Players to Target


Hurston Waldrep– SP, ATL


Waldrep moved through Atlanta’s system faster than anybody anticipated. Collegiate players always move faster than players drafted out of high school, but for Waldrep to make it to Triple-A was impressive. Overall, he pitched 29.1 innings with a 1.53 ERA. Currently, Waldrep is primarily a three-pitch guy with the ability to mix in a changeup on occasion. The change could be the key to taking his arsenal to the next level. His slider and cutter complement each other nicely and his fastball sits in the mid to upper 90s.

The biggest question for Waldrep coming out of Florida was control. Nobody has ever doubted the pure stuff. His talent level is evidenced by a 33.3% strikeout rate in his first taste of professional baseball. However, as Waldrep moved through the Minor Leagues, his walk rate increased significantly. This is something to monitor closely moving forward. If your dynasty team needs a quick influx of youth in the rotation, Waldrep could be your guy. There is relief risk here, but there is also front-of-the-rotation upside and we could see him in the Major Leagues next year.


Jung-Hoo Lee,-OF, N/A


Yoshinobu Yamamoto gets all of the attention when it comes to International Free Agents. However, another intriguing player is coming from overseas this year. Jung-Hoo Lee is coming over from Korea and is an intriguing outfield bat. He will be 25 years old for almost the entire 2024 season which creates plenty of upside for not only this season but the future as well. Plate discipline is his biggest attribute although there is optimism his hit tool will continue to develop. His swing and pull tendencies are designed for power so long as he is able to lower his ground ball rate.

Lee does not come without risk. We have seen players come over from Korea and struggle mightily in their first taste of Major League action. That being said, we have also seen players thrive and Lee is no riskier than any other prospect being taken in FYPDs. The biggest difference is Lee is all but guaranteed a starting lineup spot in 2024. No team is going to go sign Lee if they do not plan to play him. Lee will contribute in 2024 making him the perfect player to target in FYPDs if you want to win now.


The Best Late-Round Targets


Trevor Werner– 3B, KC


Any sample size from this most recent draft class is going to be extremely small. However, Werner’s numbers were so impressive that they deserve some attention. In 35 games between the Complex League and Low-A, Werner crushed nine home runs and stole 10 bases. He hit a robust .352 with a walk rate of over 14%. Werner fits the expectation for a slugging third baseman. He showed off excellent pop at Texas A&M and it is not looking like he has any plans to slow down in the Royals’ system.

Coming out of college and posting the kind of numbers that he did makes it realistic to envision Werner moving quickly through the Minor Leagues. He has a polished approach at the plate with good strike zone understanding and the ability to drive the ball out of the park. The one area of concern will be keeping his strikeout rate in check.

At this point in FYPDs, it is unlikely any player you draft will be contributing in 2024. That being said, Werner should move quickly and be in the Major Leagues before many of the players drafted ahead of him. If you are looking to compete, adding a bat like Werner’s is the perfect move.


Homer Bush Jr.– OF, SDP


This is not the first time that Homer Bush Jr. has been mentioned this month on Pitcher List. In Steve’s article highlighting sleeper picks, he pointed out that Bush could be a major value in the later rounds of drafts. I not only agree with Steve but think he is the perfect pick for somebody looking to compete in the near future. Bush made it all the way to Double-A in 2023. Overall, he slashed .325/.422/.439. The power may never be anything special, but the hit tool and speed combination is already proving to be exciting. Bush made contact at an impressive rate while walking over 10% of the time. Not only that, but in 44 games, Bush stole 22 bases.

Good fielders with excellent speed are extremely valuable to a Major League team. This could push Bush through the Minor Leagues quickly and help him land in San Diego at some point in 2024. With the team possibly looking to shed salary this off-season, the outfield could be wide open next year. Bush’s speed makes him a player that fantasy managers need to keep their eyes on and his overall frame could lend itself to more power if the Padres can help tweak his swing.


Consider a Different Avenue


Drafting new players to your dynasty team is always exciting. You get to complete your roster with a new wave of youth that could help take your team to the next level. These new shiny toys are much more visually pleasing to add to your roster than any other ordinary prospect. You get to see these players develop. You are the one who drafted them and these are going to be “homegrown players”. (Yes, all fantasy managers know that we do not play any part in developing or turning these prospects into stars). Still, it is fun to say that you were in first on a specific player and saw things out through the ups and downs.

However, sometimes these new and shiny toys are overvalued by other players. Many fantasy analysts have explained that the best time to sell high on a prospect is when they are dominating the Minor Leagues. Similarly, the best time to buy low is when they are experiencing struggles at the Major League level. This rule has exceptions, and I am not advocating selling high on Jackson Chourio. However, I am saying there is value to be had even if you are not making any draft picks.

There is no time when your FYPD draft picks are worth more than the moments leading up to or during the draft. Everybody wants to draft as many new and shiny toys as possible. If you are trying to win a championship in 2024, it could be worth it to trade away your draft picks. Yes, there is a chance that you could be trading away the next Mike Trout. However, think about it like this: Only 66% of first-round draft picks make it to the Major Leagues. The percentage of those who become All-Stars is even lower.

If you can acquire a proven Major League veteran who can help your fantasy team, then you should take it. You are guaranteeing yourself a Major League contributor in 2024. Even with somebody like Yoshinobu Yamamoto, you have no idea how he will transition to State-Side baseball.

This section is not me saying that you should trade away the chance to take Wyatt Langford for somebody like Steven Kwan (apologies for the stray bullet). All this section is trying to say is that it benefits you to field offers for your FYPD draft picks. You never know what you could wind up acquiring via trade. Chances are that whatever you do acquire will help you more in 2024 than whoever you decide to draft.


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