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New York Yankees fantasy baseball preview

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Which Yankees should you target in a fantasy draft, and when?

2021 New York Yankees Photo Day Photo by Mike Carlson/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Few feelings beat the rush of a fantasy baseball draft with a group of like-minded baseball fans. From the element of risk that goes into reaching for a favorite player or gambling that they’ll still be around later, to the constant decisions of when to prioritize which positions, fantasy drafts are an anxious hour of fun.

Whether you’re a Yankees fan or not, you should want to grab a few Bombers for your fantasy team this year. They’re slated to be one of the league’s most successful clubs and boast several players in the top 100 of projected draft orders.

The first Yankee on the ESPN and Yahoo draft boards should come as no surprise. Gerrit Cole is a sure-fire first-round pick. He’s projected to go sixth on both boards, and should be the top fantasy pitcher this season. His combination of wins (a good fantasy stat, if not for real-life analysis), strikeouts, and a low walk rate makes him a dominant fantasy entity. Of course, he’ll only pitch every fifth day, whereas a position player would play for your team every day. Different scoring formats prioritize pitchers in their own ways, so consider Cole heavily in a points league, but you may be better off going with a position player in round one of a categories league.

Neither site has another Yankee listed until the 30s or 40s on the big board, but “reaching” for one of these players could serve you well. Reigning MVP candidate DJ LeMahieu is a fantasy player’s dream – he has eligibility at three infield positions and fills out categories across the board. He finished last year as the top-ranked fantasy second baseman.

After LeMahieu, ESPN and Yahoo rank Aaron Judge 49th and 51st, respectively. This is a classic case of drafters prioritizing safety over potential, and I disagree with it. It’s true that Judge has not played a full season in three years. But when he’s on the field, he’s one of the top five fantasy outfielders. No other player in this portion of the draft board has the ceiling of Judge.

I’d be comfortable “reaching” for Judge in round three, because chances are good that he will not last until the fourth or fifth round. Someone will want to grab him and his 145 OPS+ over the last three seasons; why not you? Plus, if your league has IL slots built in, it’s even more of a reason to take Judge, knowing that you can stash him in case of injury.

The next tier of Yankees are less all-rounders, instead offering one solid trait with some risk. Luke Voit led the majors in home runs last season, and is a solid choice for your first baseman. Gleyber Torres is another one of those Judge-like players who could provide more value than his draft rank if he bounces back, but he’s such a popular player that others will probably reach for him. There’s reason to expect a return to form for Torres this season, but I wouldn’t overdraft him when there are so many other shortstops to choose from across the game.

Fantasy relievers are notoriously impossible to predict year-to-year due to their volatility. However, Aroldis Chapman is usually always in the top 10. He still racks up saves and strikeouts, and should get plenty this year. That being said, drafting any reliever ahead of another starter or position player may not be the wisest use of resources.

Giancarlo Stanton is an interesting fantasy X-factor. He has outfield eligibility in Yahoo leagues, which makes him more valuable than in ESPN leagues, where he’s currently only eligible as a DH. The same rules apply as with Judge – he has the ceiling of a top fantasy player, but he’s a huge injury risk. If your league has an IL spot and you have an opening in your UTIL/DH slot, Stanton is a must-draft. Out of the two hulking sluggers on the Yankees, though, I’d rather have Judge in fantasy.

Elsewhere, Gio Urshela is a nice option for a mid-round third baseman. Corey Kluber or Jameson Taillon only work as flyers if you already have three or four starters you can count on, durability-wise. The catcher’s spot in fantasy is notoriously weak, so taking a chance on Gary Sánchez is worth a shot in the mid-to-late rounds.

If it’s value you want, Clint Frazier and Aaron Hicks are both projected to go in the 200s on the ESPN and Yahoo big boards. Frazier is probably the superior fantasy option even though Hicks is the more well-rounded player in real life, but either would be a solid choice for an OF4 or OF5 slot.

It’s hard to go wrong with many Yankees in fantasy. The key is to know when to select each player. The pinstripes may convince some drafters to reach, but just know the risks before you do. If the Yankees can finally get a clean bill of health this season, they might be the best team to draft from in fantasy baseball.