The 2021 season isn't over yet, but many are already looking forward to next year. Even among those still competing for something, the mind wanders. You start thinking about what you might do differently and who you might target.

Personally, I'm ready to plant my flag in these eight.

At each position, I've identified one player who I think we're likely to regard as a stud at this time next year. Having a high ceiling is a prerequisite, of course, but these picks go beyond just how good they could hypothetically be. I think each is on the cusp of being that good already.

Still, they're all widely available in CBS Sports leagues right now, which means there may be some applicability for the rest of 2020 as well. Breakouts aren't confined to a year on the calendar, after all. 

ARI Arizona • #12 • Age: 26
The hype died down quickly for Daulton Varsho, who didn't deliver on expectations in his first taste of the big leagues last year or even earlier this year. But now, he has an OPS over 1.000 since the start of June, hitting nine home runs and stealing three bases during that span. Sporadic playing time helps explain why he continues to fly under the radar, but it won't be a longstanding issue given that he's capable of manning the outfield, even center field. In fact, it's his athleticism that prompted so much hype in the first place. He's one of the few catcher-eligible players who will factor in stolen bases. This end-of-year surge is setting him up for a big role in 2022, and his versatile talents should help him pull away at a stagnant position.
First base
MIN Minnesota • #19 • Age: 24
The last time Alex Kirilloff attempted to play through a wrist injury in 2019, his power was zapped at Double-A, causing his prospect stock to take a hit. Little did we know that's how his rookie season would play out as well. Remember, his bat was just beginning to wake up when he tore a ligament in the wrist on May 3, having hit four homers and two doubles in his last four games. At that point, he had an average exit velocity of 96.5 mph. Thereafter, it was 89.7. He also had a .317 xBA at that point compared to .281 thereafter. The lasting memory from Kirilloff's rookie season will be the guy who struggled to make an impact for two months rather than the guy who turned heads for one, but I saw enough to maintain that his future (at full health, anyway) is bright.
Second base
COL Colorado • #7 • Age: 26
If it seems like I'm finding a way to fit Brendan Rodgers into everything I write, well ... it's because I am. Frankly, I can't believe his rostership rate is still hovering around 50 percent, but it goes to show you how much of an afterthought he's become after failing to live up to the hype in brief cameos the past two years. Still only 25, the former third overall pick is having the kind of year that would have sent us over the moon if it happened two years ago, and while part of his rosy outlook is where he happens to play his home games, he's actually been better on the road this year. That's a mark of true talent, which Rodgers was always suspected to have. Sooner or later, the buy-in will come.
Third base
MIN Minnesota • Age: 24
This pick is kind of a stretch given that Jose Miranda hasn't even reached the majors yet and isn't sitting atop most prospect lists, but I don't care what anyone says: The guy can hit. In fact, his bat-to-ball skills are so good that they actually held him back in past years, when he'd swing at pitches outside his wheelhouse. With a more disciplined approach this year, he's performing like Albert Pujols in his prime, batting .342 with a .995 OPS between Double- and Triple-A. So why isn't there more hype? Evaluators may be slow to abandon their preconceptions for a virtual no-name coming into the year. He's also not much of a defender, which matters less for our purposes, of course. At 23, he's ready for his next opportunity and will surely get it next spring.
KC Kansas City • #7 • Age: 22
Not using much imagination for this one, I'll admit, but given how many top-flight prospects have let us down the past couple years, there's some value in stating that I think Bobby Witt will have an easy transition to the majors. Plus, the defensive threshold at shortstop is so high that you don't get a lot of newcomers at the position every year, which limits my choices. First month aside, things couldn't have gone smoother for the 21-year-old in his first full professional season, and it's worth reminding everyone the Royals nearly declared him major league-ready as far back as spring training. Another possible pick would be Jose Barrero, a defensive standout for the Reds who has enjoyed an offensive breakthrough in the upper minors this year, but I'm not as confident everything will click right away for him.
CHW Chi. White Sox • #25 • Age: 24
There's sure to be some buyer burnout on Andrew Vaughn next year given that his rookie season has been a misfire. But then again ... has it? Sort of like with Daulton Varsho, its best stretch is being undermined by inconsistent playing time. Since June 15, Vaughn is batting .297 with 10 homers and an .876 OPS, his strikeout rate dropping to an excellent 17.4 percent during that 53-game span. That'll play, all right, and if he did it over his first 53 games, we'd have a much different conception of him now. With Jose Abreu signed for another year, it's unlikely things change at first base, where Vaughn would be a better fit defensively than in the outfield, but it's not like the White Sox have a dedicated DH. Expect to see more of the 23-year-old next year.
Starting pitcher
LAA L.A. Angels • #43 • Age: 25
Patrick Sandoval is currently sidelined by a left lumbar spine stress reaction, which is liable to end his season given how little season is left. It's a sad outcome for him, but it works out for us bargain hunters. At the time of his injury, Sandoval was rostered in just two-thirds of CBS Sports leagues. It means his 15.2 percent swinging-strike rate, which would have ranked fifth among qualifiers, continues to fly under the radar. That number, as well as the rest of his stat line, was dragged down by a couple shaky starts right before his shutdown (which, in retrospect, were likely injury-afflicted), providing even more fodder for the uninitiated to dismiss him. To me, he was already there, though -- a bat-missing marvel buoyed by not just one but two standout pitches (the changeup and slider).
Relief pitcher
SEA Seattle • #37 • Age: 32
This late in the year, Mariners manager Scott Servais probably won't come around to making Paul Sewald his full-time closer, but his indecision sort of reminds me of how Brewers manager Craig Counsell used Josh Hader when he was first breaking in as a relief ace, so reluctant to confine him to the ninth inning. It changed the next year, and I'm hopeful that an offseason review of all the data will result in a similar return to convention with Sewald, whose 15.0 K/9 trails only that of Hader, Aroldis Chapman and Craig Kimbrel this year. Odds are against Drew Steckenrider, Sewald's co-closer, being quite as reliable next year given his strikeout shortcomings, so Servais may feel less emboldened to mix things up.