Fantasy Baseball: Drafting 2019's first two rounds at the All-Star break
The All-Star break approaches, making now a perfect time to reflect and project. Scott White considers what the first two rounds of next year's draft might look like based on what we've learned so far this year.
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Oh, the draft. Is there anything that consumes more of our attention?
I submit there is not, and yet I yearn to devote even more to it. The next opportunity seems oh so far away, and the brain is percolating, eager to apply what it has learned over the first half of 2018.
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That isn't to say it won't have brand new things to learn in the second half, so I would advise against printing out this list and taking it to next year's draft. It's more of an enrichment exercise. Or maybe some debate fodder.
Not that I have the energy to debate you. Go debate your cat or something.
Mike Trout Los Angeles Angels CF
|Don't try to be cute with it. Everyone who does regrets it in the end. Mike Trout would be a Hall of Famer if he retired today, and he's still only 26.|
Mookie Betts Boston Red Sox RF
|Looks like 2017 was the aberration after all. So far in 2018, Mookie Betts has averaged the most Head-to-Head points per game among hitters, and it's not even close.|
Jose Ramirez Cleveland Indians 3B
|Remember how at the end of 2016 we were asking if Jose Ramirez's .312-11-76-84-22 line was too good to be true? And how at the end of 2017 we were asking if his .318-29-83-107-17 was too good to be true? I'm done entertaining that particular line of thought.|
Jose Altuve Houston Astros 2B
|The only thing Jose Altuve does definitively better than Jose Ramirez now is hit for average. But he's still the preeminent source of that, and there's nothing wrong with him, per se. Let's not overreact.|
Nolan Arenado Colorado Rockies 3B
|Reliability counts for something in the early rounds. Reliability goes by another name: Nolan Arenado.|
Manny Machado Baltimore Orioles SS
|Where he signs this offseason will have some say in where he's ultimately drafted, but we know Manny Machado will be shortstop-eligible in 2019, we know he'll excel in at least four categories, and we know at 26, he's not slowing down.|
Francisco Lindor Cleveland Indians SS
|It's tempting to rank Francisco Lindor, who's all of 24, ahead of Machado, but that's when I remind myself he's coming off a month-long heater. And you never want to rank a player at his hottest. Still, some serious upward movement here.|
Max Scherzer Washington Nationals SP
|He'll be 34 at the end of July, which is especially scary for a pitcher whose game is power, but Max Scherzer is showing no signs of slowing down, actually improving in every skill metric from a year ago. Wish we could say the same for Clayton Kershaw.|
Chris Sale Boston Red Sox SP
|While Scherzer's is a six-year run of dominance, Chris Sale's is up to seven — and he'll only be 30 next year. The two are separated by the slimmest of margins right now, with Scherzer being just a slightly more reliable ERA and innings source.|
J.D. Martinez Boston Red Sox DH
|J.D. Martinez has hit nearly 60 home runs over the past 365 days and is batting .300 for the fourth time in five years. He'll turn 31 at the end of August, which is the only reason he doesn't rank up there with the 20-somethings.|
Bryce Harper Washington Nationals RF
|Reliability counts for something in the early rounds. Reliability has never met Bryce Harper, who we all know is better than this and know better than to allow into the second round. But it's always something with him. The good news is he's still an above-average contributor even when he's "bad."|
Charlie Blackmon Colorado Rockies CF
|Yeah, his 2018 has been a little underwhelming so far, but there's still another half to go. The batted-ball tendencies suggest Charlie Blackmon is the same player he was a year ago, just in need of some BABIP and ISO correction. Coors Field should help with that.|
Trea Turner Washington Nationals SS
|This one is more of a Rotisserie designation. We could flip Trea Turner and Alex Bregman in a points league — or at least drop Turner behind Bregman and move everyone else up a spot. But yeah, Turner steals a lot of bases and is at least passable at everything else.|
Luis Severino New York Yankees SP
|The fact Luis Severino has yet to demonstrate he can handle 200-plus innings year in and year out — not his fault, but he hasn't — puts him a few spots back of the Scherzers and Sales of the world. But he has actually been the best pitcher in Fantasy this year, even if his crazy win-loss record is partly to thank.|
Jacob deGrom New York Mets SP
|You can flip a coin between Severino and Jacob deGrom, as far as I'm concerned. I'd say deGrom feels a little safer just because we've classified him as a Fantasy ace for longer, but of the two, he's the one with an actual injury history.|
Aaron Judge New York Yankees RF
|Now that's he's doing more or less the same damage as a year ago, it's fair to conclude Aaron Judge is just immune to the strikeouts and we should love him all the more for it. Even in points leagues, which penalize for strikeouts, he has been the 12th-best hitter on a per-game basis.|
Andrew Benintendi Boston Red Sox LF
|Andrew Benintendi has emerged as the ultimate whole-is-greater-than-the-sum-of-the-parts guy, not dominating at any one thing but doing everything well enough to rate as a bona-fide stud. He and Judge should probably go ahead of Severino and deGrom in five-outfielder leagues.|
Corey Kluber Cleveland Indians SP
|Corey Kluber is still one of a rare few at the top of the starting pitcher rankings, but he has cut back on the breaking ball that made him so dominant down the stretch last year, resulting in his lowest swinging-strike rate since 2013 — before he emerged as a perennial Cy Young candidate. Seeing as he'll be 33 next year, you have to wonder ...|
Gerrit Cole Houston Astros SP
|After a gangbusters start to his Astros career, Gerrit Cole has looked something closer to mortal over the past two months, judging by his ERA, strikeout rate and walk rate. But the full-season numbers count for more, and it's not like he has slipped enough to ruin those. We'll see if the trend continues.|
Freddie Freeman Atlanta Braves 1B
|Clearly the top first baseman in Fantasy now, Freddie Freeman is regularly among the leaders in line-drive rate and a safe source of batting average as a result. And while a few more home runs would be nice, he's a reasonable bet for 30 at this stage of his career.|
Alex Bregman Houston Astros 3B
|Ah, Alex Bregman. Maybe the hardest player to rank across opposing formats given that his exceptional plate discipline sets him even further apart in points leagues. But you know what? He's a legit power hitter now. And with a BABIP on the wrong side of .300, I suspect his batting average goes up from here. You'll get yours, Roto owners.|
Carlos Correa Houston Astros SS
|A standout shortstop is still a prized commodity in Fantasy, and Carlos Correa is about the last of those left, depending how much you trust Javier Baez and Xander Bogaerts . I still trust Correa, who has accomplished so much already at 23 and has his usual underlying numbers apart from a higher strikeout rate.|
Kris Bryant Chicago Cubs 3B
|We all thought Kris Bryant's 29 home runs last year were fluky, so of course he's on a much worse pace this year. It doesn't make any sense if you look at how hard he hits the ball and how well he elevates the ball. A two-year trend would be difficult to dismiss, but let's see how the second half plays out.|
Justin Verlander Houston Astros SP
|Though as dominant as any starting pitcher this year, Justin Verlander will nonetheless be 36 next and without question an old man. I guess it's worrisome, but since joining the Astros, this eventual Hall of Famer is as good as we've ever seen him. I care enough to drop him to the end of the second round, anyway.|
Certainly he has come roaring back over the past six weeks, but Goldschmidt hasn't made an effort to run this year, which had been a fairly important part of his skill set. It's tough to reconcile all the strikeouts from the first two months with what he's doing now, especially for a guy on the wrong side of 30, so I'll wait to declare him all the way back. It's not like ranking him 25th overall is some major slight.
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