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How early should you draft Vladimir Guerrero Jr.?

No. 1 prospect has potential to be immediate fantasy stud
March 16, 2019

The Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hype train has left the station, and it may only pick up steam when Spring Training gets underway. Fantasy owners are going to have a tough decision to make -- how early is too early to select MLB Pipeline's No. 1 overall prospect? There are three

The Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hype train has left the station, and it may only pick up steam when Spring Training gets underway. Fantasy owners are going to have a tough decision to make -- how early is too early to select MLB Pipeline's No. 1 overall prospect?

There are three ways to approach the situation.

1. The "I must have Vlad Jr." strategy

Guerrero might be the best prospect of all time. The upside to drafting him is immense, both in terms of fantasy value and fun factor.

MLB Pipeline's Top 100 prospects list

Calling the slugger's name on draft day and then watching him tear through the league all summer as one of your cornerstone players would be decidedly more satisfying than selecting a comparable third baseman from the top 10 -- yes, Guerrero is already a top 10 fantasy third baseman -- such as Anthony Rendon. (No disrespect to the ultra-reliable Rendon, of course.)

Fantasy owners who want to swing for the fences can make Guerrero the fourth third baseman off the board -- after Jose Ramirez, Nolan Arenado and Alex Bregman, and ahead of Kris Bryant, Rendon and Eugenio Suárez -- by taking him near the end of Round 2 in 12-team mixed leagues. Selecting Guerrero any earlier would be excessively risky, however.

2. The reasonable, measured strategy

Guerrero's Minor League numbers are the stuff of legend. The youngster hit .402 with 14 homers over 61 games in his first taste of Double-A in 2018, then put up a .336/.414/.564 slash line with more walks (15) than strikeouts (10) in 128 Triple-A plate appearances. For good measure, Guerrero also raked in the Arizona Fall League.

Simply put, Guerrero -- the son of Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero -- just feels like he's going to be a massive star right away, much like Ronald Acuña Jr. was in 2018.

However, Guerrero is still just 19 years old, and not all top prospects excel right out of the gate.

Mike Trout won the American League Rookie of the Year Award and finished second in MVP voting in 2012, but his brief debut the year before was far less impressive. Former No. 1 overall prospects Yoán Moncada and Byron Buxton still haven't become fantasy lineup mainstays. And while Bryce Harper hit the ground running after debuting in 2012, his production -- a .270 average with 22 homers, 59 RBIs and an .817 OPS -- was hardly the main reason why anyone won the fantasy crown that year.

Furthermore, Guerrero is not going to open this season on the Major League roster, and he's currently sidelined by a Grade 1 left oblique strain. There's a chance the Blue Jays will keep him in the Minors until mid-April, as the Cubs did with Bryant in 2015, or even later, if his injury lingers. Acuna didn't debut with the Braves until April 25 last year.

There are enough unknowns in play here to put a dent in Guerrero's draft stock, even for owners who don't mind throwing caution to the wind once or twice in the early rounds. By making the slugger the No. 7 third baseman off the board and selecting him in Round 4 in 12-team mixed leagues, you can still be in on the Guerrero experience while mitigating some of the risk involved. In this case, Guerrero would be taken after Ramirez, Arenado, Bregman, Bryant, Rendon and Suarez.

3. But don't let him fall further than …

... Round 6 in 12-team mixed leagues (picks 61-72). In most drafts, there will likely be someone who utilizes one of the first two strategies, which means Guerrero will be gone long before this point. But if he's still available after the end of the fifth round, even those who prefer to take established names over unproven prospects should jump at the chance to get him.

Thomas Harrigan is a reporter for MLB.com.