I love surveys, man. Bringing open-ended questions to the nameless, faceless masses. Tallying up the results. I don't even care what the subject is about; it's just fun to pore over them.
But what if the subject is about something as interesting as Fantasy Baseball? You can dig that, right? Well, I have the power to make it happen through the careful exploitation of my reasonably sized Twitter and Facebook following.
The question I posed to them was straightforward enough -- which player do you want most at each position in a Dynasty league? -- but it required respondents to weigh multiple factors. And their responses are telling -- if not for who got the most votes, then over whom and by how much.
And since I performed this exercise prior to last season as well, we can also observe how things have changed in just a year's time.
I love it. Let's do it.
J.T. Realmuto has long been the standout at this position, but with him turning 30 this year, the expiration date may be nearing. Then again, catchers are notoriously difficult to project given the position's defensive demands, physical toll and platoon incentives, so you can understand why those with longevity in mind would still opt for someone semi-proven like Will Smith. Making him the top priority, though, is putting a lot on the ratio gains he made during an all-too-brief season, and the Dodgers have never been a team to stick with one catcher anyway. As risky as catcher prospects are known to be, Adley Rutschman, the top pick in 2019, is regarded as a generational talent with no weaknesses on either side of the ball.
JT. It’s like Tight End in football. Give me the best and the clear advantage over everyone else until he’s not the best anymore— Josh Linden-Canning (@Jlindencanning) January 27, 2021
My choice: Rutschman
Cody Bellinger was a much clearer winner a year ago, garnering 60 percent of the vote, but he was of course coming off an MVP season. The big gainer here is the current NL MVP, Freddie Freeman, who trailed both Bellinger and Pete Alonso a year ago but now has no shortage of Dynasty backers despite his 31 years of age. It's a six-year difference between him and Bellinger, who is as proven if not quite as steady. Some respondents may have overlooked Vladimir Guerrero, still considering him to be more of a third baseman, but enthusiasm for the former top prospect has understandably waned a bit. Spencer Torkelson, the top pick in the 2020 draft, also saw his votes split between first and third base.
I’m still going Freeman. That park is built for him, he’s in a great offense that’s locked up long term, and he’s shown no signs of slowing down.— Tommy O (@BC1illTO) January 27, 2021
My choice: Bellinger
Second base isn't lacking in youth or upside, but it's missing the obvious standout that so many of the other positions have. The same two horses led this race a year ago, but with Keston Hiura having a slight advantage over Ozzie Albies. He so disappointed in his sophomore season, though, that it's clear most Dynasty players now prefer the steadier of the 24-year-olds. The third member of the 24-year-old contingent, Gleyber Torres, took an even bigger tumble, with his much older teammate, DJ LeMahieu, actually getting more love.
Interestingly, the consensus top prospect, Wander Franco, got about as many votes here as at shortstop, the position he's currently playing in the minors. Perhaps it's wishful thinking eyeing him for the scarcer position.
Matt Thoman, via Facebook: "I'll still take DJ. No one else is close, and half a dozen rookies will debut by the time he fades."
Madrigal. Second base doesn’t have a far and away stud. Makes it a good position to take a shot on a prospect.— ✭Besse✭ (@BesseBoy) January 28, 2021
My choice: Albies
The winner here seems obvious, right? Jose Ramirez has been an early-round fixture for the past several years, is still in his prime at age 28 and nearly won AL MVP. But would you believe he got only 3 percent of the vote at this position a year ago? True, Ramirez had only just rebounded from a weird slump that lasted nearly a full calendar year, but it does highlight how easily we fall in and out of love with these players even with the long-term ramifications of Dynasty play. I'll buck the trend and stick with Alex Bregman, who led the position with 32.5 percent of the vote a year ago. He's a year and a half younger than Ramirez, has superior on-base skills and isn't as reliant on stolen bases, which are more likely to fade with age.
Devers for me. I think he’s a 4 category stud for many years to come. Not sure how much longer Jose Ramirez keeps running.— The Zach Duke Spirit (@apendygraft) January 28, 2021
My choice: Bregman
This position featured the biggest runaway winner, which isn't so surprising when you consider who it is. Fernando Tatis is just 22 years old and is already regarded as a top-five player in Fantasy with the potential to be No. 1. But it's kind of a shame he's such an obvious choice given how youthful and star-studded this position is. The top prospect in baseball is a shortstop and got only 5.3 percent of the vote. One of the biggest breakouts of 2020, Corey Seager, couldn't muster even a mention. And then you have early-round fixtures like Trea Turner, Trevor Story and Francisco Lindor just barely registering. It kind of puts the Bo Bichette hype into perspective, doesn't it?
Anyone who doesn’t say Tatis is a troll— Ruff Mercenary (@jflesher) January 28, 2021
My choice: Tatis
What's interesting about these results is that Ronald Acuna, who's just a year older than Juan Soto, is still the consensus No. 1 pick in traditional 5x5 leagues, and several respondents did make the distinction that they'd prefer Acuna for categories leagues and Soto for points leagues. But when forced to single out one or the other, the scales ultimately tipped in Soto's favor -- a reversal from a year ago, when Mike Trout slotted in between the two.
And you know what? I'm inclined to agree. Acuna's stolen bases are irreplaceable in a 5x5 league, but players with his kind of power potential don't remain base-stealers for long. In terms of pure hitting ability, Soto has not only him beat, but possibly all hitters in baseball, with a profile that will carry from now to eternity. A 22-year-old who already inspires that level of confidence is a Dynasty dreamboat.
Acuña, at least for roto. Love Soto, but the steals swing it. Might flip them in a points league.— Just Some Guy (@jeremylatzke) January 28, 2021
Soto. I know he is lacking steals, but his floor is like the ceiling of so many other players.— Jonathan Moses (@JonathanMoses13) January 28, 2021
My choice: Soto
Walker Buehler was a distant winner here a year ago, garnering 42 percent of the vote, but I think we've all grown weary of the Dodgers' chicanery. Or maybe it's just that Shane Bieber put to rest whatever doubts remained about him with a Cy Young-winning season. He's actually a year younger than Buehler even though he carries himself like a 31-year-old. Buehler's biggest competition last year wasn't even Bieber but Jack Flaherty, who has been unfairly downgraded here after getting caught in the Cardinals' quarantine quagmire. No reason to think the 25-year-old's long-term outlook has changed.
While this list is mostly populated with forward-thinking picks, several respondents expressed a preference for the longstanding studliness of Jacob deGrom and Gerrit Cole, noting that pitching is too combustible to plan so far into the future. They may have a point.
I’d say Degrom or Cole...you never know with pitching, have to value the known commodity more. They are there, they’ve been there for a while with no reason to expect them not to be there for a bit longer.— Jason (@TheDingo8YoBaby) January 28, 2021
My choice: Bieber
Relief pitcher is a wild position that sees wild fluctuations in value based on who's in line for saves. So it's ... well, it's wild that only two of the five players who got the required number of votes here are established saves sources. Granted, James Karinchak is in line to become one with Brad Hand's departure, and his 17.7 K/9 equaled that of the next on this list, NL Rookie of the Year Devin Williams.
Clearly, the most forward-thinking respondents were betting on skill and trusting in the role to fall, and the same was also true last year, when an even less established Karinchak still placed third on this list. There's an argument to be made, though, for not paying a second thought to the future at the most volatile position in Fantasy, in which case you should probably just opt for the best closer right now.
What about Garrett Crochet? The 2020 first-rounder made a quick debut as a reliever, but with an eye on joining the starting rotation at some point in the future.
Hendricks. Don't plan long-term for RP. Take the best guy now.— Dead Pull Hitter 🇨🇦 (@jeffpasquale00) January 28, 2021
My choice: Hader