Fantasy Baseball: Predicting the first two rounds of 2020 drafts
Much has happened in the first half of 2019. Scott White pauses to reflect on what it might mean for 2020.
There's always next year, right?
Most of us aren't thinking along those lines yet, thankfully, but it's fun to imagine. And the midway point offers a chance to slow things down and sum things up.
Here's how I anticipate the first two rounds of 2020 looking based on the information available to me today:
Mike Trout Los Angeles Angels CF
|Mike Trout isn't always the top player in Fantasy, but those who've tried to predict who'll finish ahead of him have seen it backfire spectacularly, be it Mookie Betts this year, Jose Altuve last year or Bryce Harper heading into 2016. Trout is reachable, yes, but his normal is other players' absolute best.|
Christian Yelich Milwaukee Brewers RF
|Remember the starting point of every Christian Yelich conversation coming off last season? "Yeah, he'll never be that good again, but how good can he be?" Turns out even better. And what's craziest to think is that the home run output was most in dispute, yet here he is on pace to challenge what so many purists consider to be the true single-season record.|
Cody Bellinger Los Angeles Dodgers RF
|Yelich and Cody Bellinger have been neck-and-neck for best-of-2019 honors, and though Bellinger has had further to go, basically cutting his strikeout rate in half from his rookie season, I still think he comes about his power a little easier. He has pretty much stopped stealing bases since mid-May, though, while Yelich is running wild.|
Mookie Betts Boston Red Sox RF
|Mookie Betts gets a pass because we know at his best he's a five-category stud on the level of Mike Trout, and we're reminded again that, at his worst, he's still pretty studly. Of course, we've had to say it two of the past three years now.|
Nolan Arenado Colorado Rockies 3B
|All Nolan Arenado does is hit .300 with 40 homers every year while contending for the RBI title in the run-making factory that is Coors Field, yet in 2019, it's considered boring. Egad, man, steal some bases already.|
Max Scherzer Washington Nationals SP
|I could make a case for Max Scherzer as high as fourth overall if he was about four years younger, but he'll turn 35 midway through 2020, putting him well within the danger zone of seeing his talent evaporate one year. They literally aren't making pitchers who do what he does anymore, though, so to get a clear standout at a volatile position, you to take on some risk.|
Chris Sale Boston Red Sox SP
|After bumpy start, perhaps attributable to a near-nonexistent spring training, Chris Sale has fully demonstrated he's capable of dominating at lower velocities, which should better equip him to handle the Scherzer-like workload that can make such an impact in Fantasy.|
Francisco Lindor Cleveland Indians SS
|Francisco Lindor has fallen short of his 2018 production in a number of ways, some owing to natural regression (home runs) and some to a poor supporting cast (runs and RBI). But one thing he has done is double down on his emergence as a base-stealer, which along with a low strikeout rate makes him sort of like a shortstop version of Mookie Betts (i.e., things can only go so wrong for him).|
Gerrit Cole Houston Astros SP
|Anyone out there struggling to put together a competent pitching stuff? Then surely you understand it may be worth going the extra mile for a sure thing in this offense-laden environment. Gerrit Cole has offered nary a concern while delivering one double digit-strikeout effort after another in his two years with the Astros , though it's worth noting he could sign with a different team this offseason.|
Freddie Freeman Atlanta Braves 1B
|After seeing his power numbers sag a bit last year, Freddie Freeman is back on the 40-homer track he might have achieved two years ago if he didn't get plunked on the wrist. Plus, he's one of the surest .300 hitters you'll find, making him an easy choice for the top first baseman (unless, you know, Cody Bellinger is still eligible there).|
Ronald Acuna Atlanta Braves CF
|Though the most strikeout-prone hitter so far, Ronald Acuna is nonetheless reaching a place at age 21 where ... the strikeouts aren't bad, really. If his second half this year goes like it did last year, you could see him making a push for top-five status, especially now that he's comfortable stealing bases again back in the leadoff spot.|
Trevor Story Colorado Rockies SS
|Trevor Story also performed like a first-rounder in 2018, of course, but the stolen bases prowess and respectable strikeout rate were both so new to him that few were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Fair to say he has erased that doubt in 2019.|
Alex Bregman Houston Astros 3B
|You could bump up Alex Bregman another 2-3 spots in a points league, probably, where having more walks than strikeouts more than makes up for what he lacks. It's not clear, though, if he actually lacks anything, given that he's had terrible BABIP luck so far. The supporting cast helps everything play up, too.|
J.D. Martinez Boston Red Sox DH
|J.D. Martinez's actual production may be down, but his peripherals — hard-hit rate, fly-ball rate, line-drive rate, strikeout and walk rates, xwOBA, etc. — suggest he's the same player who was deserving of a top-five pick this year. He may be in line for a huge finish, in other words, but since he's turning 32 in a couple months, I'll rank him more cautiously regardless.|
Aaron Judge New York Yankees RF
|It'd be unfair to evaluate Aaron Judge on his 2019 production, and yes, back-to-back injury-plagued seasons does raise a red flag. But in the little we've seen of him, he has struck out less than ever while hitting the ball as hard as ever, which would put him in the running for best player in Fantasy.|
Fernando Tatis San Diego Padres SS
|Fernando Tatis ' batting average certainly needs to come down a bit — to the point he's maybe a .260 hitter the rest of the way — but he has already demonstrated he has 30-30 potential and, you know, is 20 years old. Chances are he goes down the Ronald Acuna path of cutting down those strikeouts, and then things get really interesting.|
Justin Verlander Houston Astros SP
|While Max Scherzer entering his age-35 season is worrisome, Justin Verlander entering his age-37 season is just asking for trouble. And yet he exhibits no signs of decline, which makes picking him here perfectly defensible and perhaps even a bargain. Again, it's the kind of risk you have to take to get an ace in an era that has sort of moved beyond the ace.|
Trea Turner Washington Nationals SS
|You can bump Trea Turner down a couple spots in points leagues — or maybe out of the second round entirely, as plentiful as high-end shortstops have become — but you have to respect the stolen bases in traditional 5x5 leagues, as scarce as they've become. Turner remains a prolific source of them while contributing a substantial something apart from them.|
Jacob deGrom New York Mets SP
|For all the laughter they inspire, the Mets aren't exactly 100-game losers, so it's amazing Jacob deGrom has had back-to-back seasons where wins have been such an issue. It's all the more glaring this year, when his ratios aren't other-worldly, but they remain those of an ace, the K-to-BB ratio actually matching up exactly.|
Anthony Rendon Washington Nationals 3B
|As impressive as Anthony Rendon 's totals are, he ranks up there with Mike Trout in per-game production when you factor in his IL stint. But you're not used to seeing him go so high in drafts because his power production has never been at this level. Seeing as it's happening at age 29, a more cautious approach is justified.|
Charlie Blackmon Colorado Rockies RF
|He may have looked like he was on the decline last year, but Charlie Blackmon has come roaring back this year with per-game numbers that compare to Cody Bellinger's. We're sizing him up in the days after an impossibly hot stretch, though, and seeing as he'll be turning 34 next year, you have to assume he takes a step back, wherever his numbers end up.|
Josh Bell Pittsburgh Pirates 1B
|Josh Bell is among the bolder choices for this list, though his 2019 production so far justifies it. The hitter field gets pretty crowded at this point, and so making a hefty investment in a one-year phenomenon, no matter how valid the numbers look, may not be some people's cup of tea. I'm here to tell you it's mine, though. Mmm ... tea.|
Walker Buehler Los Angeles Dodgers SP
|Yup, with a muddled starting pitcher field after the top five, why not project another step forward for the kid with killer ratios the past two years? Walker Buehler should be better equipped to handle an ace workload in his third major-league season (not that the Dodgers have been reluctant to let him go deep, especially since that shaky April when he was making up for lost spring training reps).|
Blake Snell Tampa Bay Rays SP
|In deference to the angry masses, I'm taking a measured approach to Blake Snell , whose ERA and win-loss record look pretty awful after a recent rough patch but whose whiff rate and xFIP suggest he's as dominant as ever. My more reckless self wants to slot him ahead of Jacob deGrom and even Justin Verlander, but ... well, there are innings issues, too.|
Pete Alonso New York Mets 1B
|Guy enters the league on pace for 55 homers and can't even crack the first two rounds, which shows you the state of offense across the league. It'd be reasonable to project some strikeout improvement for Pete Alonso , as I am for Fernando Tatis, but he is already 24.|
Jose Altuve Houston Astros 2B
|Granted, Jose Altuve didn't get much of a chance to rebound during an injury-plagued first half, but the production has been even worse ... and with the same knee still bothering him. Fool me twice, shame on me.|
Javier Baez Chicago Cubs SS
|Javier Baez 's follow-up to a near-MVP season has gone better than it could have, frankly, more or less validating his early-round presence. But he's not really stealing bases anymore and doesn't figure to be second base-eligible next year.|
Shane Bieber Cleveland Indians SP
|Yeah, I think Shane Bieber is probably next up at starting pitcher, looking at that strikeout-to-walk ratio and the ace workload he's already taking on. It depends on a number of things, like what Lucas Giolito does from here and how Tyler Glasnow bounces back from injury. I guess Trevor Bauer and Stephen Strasburg are also still in the discussion.|
Joey Gallo Texas Rangers CF
|Joey Gallo isn't striking out any less, but he's hitting the ball quite a bit harder, which is saying something given that he was a 40-homer guy each of the previous two seasons. So it can be done — he can be a top five-type hitter in Fantasy even with a 35 percent strikeout rate. I'm just reluctant to bid on him being that kind of outlier again.|
Ketel Marte Arizona Diamondbacks 2B
|Ketel Marte has so far been the best at a position (second base) that lacks a first-round talent, and having outfield eligibility only furthers his case. Let's see if he can sustain this power production for another half.|
Gary Sanchez New York Yankees C
|As we hoped would be the case last year, Gary Sanchez 's power production has made him a distant first at catcher on a per-game basis, and his xwOBA suggests he has actually underperformed. But the fact I'm citing per-game production underscores the risk of investing too much in a physically demanding position.|
George Springer Houston Astros CF
|George Springer 's 2019 numbers so far merit a top-24 pick next year, but they're never-before-reached heights for a guy who's about to turn 30. There's too much of a track record for me to buy into it fully, and I expect the production to slip some in the second half.|
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