Fantasy Baseball 2023: NL Central players to target in drafts

Fantasy baseball analysts Scott Pianowski, Dalton Del Don and Andy Behrens reveal the player they're targeting on each NL Central team. The reason behind their selections could be tied to draft value, a star they want to build around or someone they’re going out of their way to take.

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Chicago Cubs

Hayden Wesneski is the only Cubs pitcher I’ve prioritized this draft season because I happen to like strikeouts. He struck out a batter per inning in his six-game MLB cameo last year and has delivered 17 Ks over 12.0 tidy frames this spring. — Andy Behrens

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Is “pass” an option? If not, give me Adbert Alzolay, whom I predict emerges as the Cubs’ best option to close this season. — Dalton Del Don

Adbert Alzolay of the Chicago Cubs has fantasy value
Could Adbert Alzolay end up the Cubs' most valuable fantasy reliever? (Photo by Matt Dirksen/Getty Images)

Nico Hoerner is a lot like Thairo Estrada of San Francisco, another player I like — flexible in the field (Hoerner will add 2B eligibility in a week) while offering sneaky category juice. But heads up, you can land Hoerner about 40 picks later than Estrada in Yahoo drafts. — Scott Pianowski

St. Louis Cardinals

The Cards have an annoyingly deep farm system, with Jordan Walker pretty firmly at the top of the organizational hierarchy. He’s enjoying a legendary spring, forcing his way into the Opening Day conversation. Walker carries third-base eligibility into the season based on minor-league usage, though he’ll likely fill a corner outfield spot in the majors. — Andy Behrens

Steven Matz continued to battle injuries last year, but he also posted a 21.3 K-BB% that would’ve ranked top-10 among starters if he qualified. Matz’s 5.25 ERA was accompanied by a 3.64 expected ERA. He should continue enjoying the fruits of playing outside the AL East and in a pitcher’s park that’s among the league leaders in suppressing homers. Matz is coming off a torn MCL (not an arm injury) and enters 2023 fully healthy — and a fantasy sleeper. — Dalton Del Don

Brendan Donovan qualifies at every field position except catcher, and he has shown added pop this spring (four homers). Look for a plus average, 530 or more at-bats and perhaps a 12-10 type of season. This is a perfect mixed-league rover for the top of your bench. — Scott Pianowski

Milwaukee Brewers

• Sal Frelick has raked all spring, including a 7-for-23 performance for Italy in the WBC. He’s a lock to hit for average and swipe a bunch of bases whenever he gets an extended look for the Brewers. — Andy Behrens

Rowdy Tellez has a chance to have an even better season than last year’s breakout and should be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the shift rules. He'll continue to be greatly helped by Milwaukee’s park, as Tellez’s home/road splits last year were dramatic: 22 HR/13 HR, .537 SLG/.391 SLG, 137 wRC+/85 wRC+. THE BAT X projects him to hit the second-most homers per plate appearance, yet Tellez is barely being drafted as a top-15 fantasy first baseman. — Dalton Del Don

Injuries and a roomy Seattle park took down Jesse Winker last summer. Good health and the lefty-friendly Milwaukee park can give you a fantasy steal this time around. Winker’s current Yahoo ADP is a giveaway of 250. — Scott Pianowski

Cincinnati Reds

The plan for Tyler Stephenson this season is for him to play as many as 150 games, seeing time at catcher, first and DH. That is exactly what we’re looking for in a fantasy catcher, folks. He slashed .319/.372/.482 over 50 games for the Reds last year. — Andy Behrens

THE BAT X projects TJ Friedl for 15/10 in fewer than 425 ABs and a wRC+ (104) — higher than Riley Greene, Jake McCarthy and Oscar Gonzalez among others being drafted far higher in fantasy leagues (including teammate Jake Fraley, with a 98 wRC+ and an ADP 50+ spots higher). Great American Ball Park has increased home runs for left-handed batters by a staggering (and MLB-high) 63% the past three seasons. — Dalton Del Don

Jonathan India was a five-category disruptor in his rookie year, but he gets an injury pass for 2022. The ADP has come down nicely (Yahoo 180.7), and Great American Ball Park is an unfair advantage. I’d also like to mention that Tyler Stephenson is my most drafted catcher by far, basically for the angles Andy discussed. — Scott Pianowski

Pittsburgh Pirates

My credentials as a Roansy Contreras booster are firmly established, as I’ve been hyping and rehyping him for the past two years. He struck out 128 minor-league hitters over 92.1 innings dating to 2021, and he should (finally) spend a full season in the big leagues in 2023. — Andy Behrens

Mitch Keller was once a top pitching prospect who turned it on in the second half last year and has now introduced a cutter to his repertoire. He has shown increased velocity this spring when he has recorded a 20:1 K:BB ratio. — Dalton Del Don

Only Washington has a weaker collection of fantasy prospects in the National League; it’s difficult to recommend much in Pittsburgh with a straight face. I do have some post-hype interest in Ke’Bryan Hayes, given that he’s still just 26, he will run, and his Yahoo ADP (194) is about a round and a half cheaper than his NFBC ticket — Scott Pianowski