Fantasy Baseball: How the first two rounds of a 2018 draft should look

Let's be honest: Hot stove season is kind of a drag.

With the action so sparse, the mind tends to wander ... from college football to the legitimacy of bitcoin to recipes that make use of Flamin' Hot Cheetos and inevitably back to baseball and your Fantasy team, which you've no doubt begun to construct and deconstruct already in your mind.

Well, here's some food for thought. Below is what I think could happen -- or perhaps even should happen -- in the first two rounds of 2018 drafts. So now in all your fantasies about Fantasy, you can imagine what your first two picks might look like while factoring in, you know, those 11 other teams.

What, you thought you were going to swoop in and grab Mike Trout, Mookie Betts and Manny Machado with your first three picks? Get out of town.

Go on. Get.

Round 1
Mike Trout Los Angeles Angels CF
Since taking the league by storm as a 20-year-old in 2012, Mike Trout has finished first or second in AL MVP every year but one, 2017, when he missed six weeks with a torn thumb ligament and had to settle for fourth in the voting. No need to get cute here.
Jose Altuve Houston Astros 2B
While second base has its share of upside picks, it's lacking in true standouts apart from Jose Altuve, who also happens to be one of the leading contributors in two of the scarcer categories in today's Fantasy economy: batting average and stolen bases.
Paul Goldschmidt Arizona Diamondbacks 1B
Paul Goldschmidt traded off some stolen bases for a more typical home run total in 2017 but remains one of the most well-rounded hitters in Fantasy -- and at a position where you can't afford to go without a standout. 
Nolan Arenado Colorado Rockies 3B
Nolan Arenado didn't lead the NL in home runs and RBI for a third straight year, but he hit over .300 for the first time. He plays half his games at Coors Field and is still in the early stages of his prime at 26, making him as safe a pick as you could make.
Bryce Harper Washington Nationals RF
Our first whiff of risk comes from this heap of upside who, at-bat for at-bat, might be the best offensive player this side of Trout. But Bryce Harper did miss six weeks with a knee injury last year and saw his numbers severely impacted by a neck injury the year before.
Charlie Blackmon Colorado Rockies CF
Having surpassed expectations for a fourth straight year, Charlie Blackmon certainly feels safer than Harper, but at 31, he's one of the older early-rounders and may have simply enjoyed a perfect storm of a season.
Carlos Correa Houston Astros SS
The top shortstop just delivered numbers that would measure up at any position if not for the two months he missed with a torn thumb ligament, and it's no surprise given Carlos Correa's pedigree. He's all upside at a thin position but still not as proven as the six guys ahead of him. 
Mookie Betts Boston Red Sox RF
Quality of contact had a little something to do with Mookie Betts' .268 BABIP, but that number was departure enough from the norm to suggest that the 25-year-old endured his worst-case scenario in 2017. And he was still a stud, if not quite MVP-caliber.
Giancarlo Stanton Miami Marlins RF
An MVP season won't completely remove the stigma of his injury-plagued beginnings, but one thing that shouldn't be in question for Giancarlo Stanton is his production. Closing his stance has made him a more controlled hitter without compromising his power.
Kris Bryant Chicago Cubs 3B
In two years' time, Kris Bryant has gone from striking out too much to making unusually good contact for a power hitter, which bodes well for the long haul even if his overall production took a step back in 2017. You didn't expect him to win MVP every year, did you?
Trea Turner Washington Nationals SS
After delivering one of the highest line-drive rates as a rookie in 2016, Trea Turner turned in one of the lowest of 2017, draining both his BABIP and ISO in the process. Yet he was still the top shortstop in Head-to-Head points per game, which tells you a little about his upside.
Clayton Kershaw Los Angeles Dodgers SP
The ace is an endangered species, which puts a premium on the few who exist, but with back issues limiting Clayton Kershaw three of the last four years, the gap between No. 1 and Nos. 2, 3 and 4 has dwindled enough to drop Kershaw to 12th.  
Round 2
Freddie Freeman Atlanta Braves 1B
Deciding between Freddie Freeman, Anthony Rizzo and Joey Votto is among the more difficult tasks on Draft Day, which makes it easy to put off until Round 2. They're all first round-caliber hitters, though, so time to take the plunge.
Anthony Rizzo Chicago Cubs 1B
Anthony Rizzo's production is a little on the boring side, his batting average potential lagging behind Freeman and Votto, but with plus plate discipline and four consecutive 30-homer seasons, he offers steady studliness. 
Corey Kluber Cleveland Indians SP
Even on a per-start basis, Corey Kluber was better than Kershaw in 2017, which is something you don't see every year. And given that it began with a conscious decision to throw his curveball more beginning in June, it may well be sustainable.
Joey Votto Cincinnati Reds 1B
Joey Votto was better than Freeman and Rizzo in 2017 and probably has the most upside of the three, but he's 34, making him the oldest player considered in these first two rounds and an obvious injury risk. Better safe than sorry, right?
Chris Sale Boston Red Sox SP
With the last of the first round-caliber hitters off the board, we turn our focus to the "worry-free" aces (if there is such a thing). Chris Sale has an annoying tendency to fade down the stretch, but he always throws 200 innings and is always in the Cy Young conversation. 
Max Scherzer Washington Nationals SP
Though second to Kershaw in consistent studliness (and perhaps first in durability), Max Scherzer is 33 and had a couple of health scares in 2017 that fortunately didn't cost him much time. A more cautious approach makes sense, at least to the point that this pitching landscape allows.
Manny Machado Baltimore Orioles 3B
Manny Machado is out of the first-round discussion for now, but he looked like he was becoming a fixture before a disappointing 2017 season -- one that was difficult to explain as it was happening and partly redeemed by a big second half. At 25, he's a safe bet to bounce back.
Francisco Lindor Cleveland Indians SS
Francisco Lindor had some frustrating stretches in 2017 as he developed into more of a power hitter, but the end result was still studly, even if a slightly different flavor. He's closer in overall output to Correa and Turner than to, say, Corey Seager.
J.D. Martinez Arizona Diamondbacks RF
J.D. Martinez actually homered with greater frequency than Stanton in 2017, but because he missed the first six weeks with a sprained foot, it didn't show up in the totals. It's not clear why he found another gear at age 30, so some skepticism is warranted.
Jose Ramirez Cleveland Indians 3B
Jose Ramirez performed like a first-rounder in 2017 and is the first dual-eligible player mentioned to this point (qualifying at second and third base). But even if the batted-ball data mostly backs it up, the 25-year-old exceeded expectations by enough to merit a more cautious ranking.
George Springer Houston Astros CF
Like Bryant, Springer has turned one of his greatest weaknesses (making contact) into one of his greatest strengths in a few year's time, but he doesn't elevate the ball like a power hitter should. Still, his World Series performance solidified his star standing.
Aaron Judge New York Yankees RF
Aaron Judge has proven to be the exception to many rules, but for all the home runs, his strikeouts still demand a high BABIP from him, which is only possible if he recaptures the line-drive approach he had in the first half. Fortunately, the walks offer a nice safety net.
Senior Fantasy Writer

Raised in Atlanta by a board game-loving family during the dawn of the '90s Braves dynasty, Scott White was easy prey for the Fantasy Sports, in particular Fantasy Baseball, and has devoted his adulthood... Full Bio

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