bo-bichette.jpg

It's never too early to talk about next year, and as playoffs get started in certain Head-to-Head leagues, some Fantasy Baseballers suddenly have nothing else to talk about.

No better place to start than the beginning, right, with the first two rounds? Of course, it's murkier than ever now with so many top-of-draft mainstays -- from Fernando Tatis to Ronald Acuna to Mookie Betts -- facing surgery or the prospect of it. And who knows what to make of Jacob deGrom, really?

So things could change, obviously. With six weeks remaining in the 2021 season, it probably goes without saying. As things stand now, though, I'm fairly confident I have the right 24 players here, even if we might quibble over the order.

Round 1
1
headshot-image
Fernando Tatis San Diego Padres SS
His 162-game pace this year is unreal, but since he's expected to have surgery this offseason to address his recurring shoulder dislocation issue, any setback could bump him from this top spot.
2
Ronald Acuna Atlanta Braves RF
He's still nearly on par with Tatis statistically, but his recovery from a torn ACL figures to be a bit more strenuous, with more possibility of a setback along the way.
3
Vladimir Guerrero Toronto Blue Jays 1B
The best non-base stealer has seen his pace slow a bit in the second half, but nobody's questioning his ability to hit home runs anymore.
4
Juan Soto Washington Nationals RF
A bit of a legacy pick given his reduced power production this year, but he's had a better season than you might think and appears to be finishing strong.
5
Shohei Ohtani Los Angeles Angels DH
There will be those making the case for him to go No. 1 overall, and one certainly exists. But he has more potential pitfalls than the four ahead of him, including plate discipline issues and, naturally, workload issues.
6
Jacob deGrom New York Mets SP
Figuring out what's up with his elbow, which right now appears to be just inflammation, will be a source of consternation this offseason and into next spring, but when healthy, there's clearly nobody better.
7
Trea Turner Los Angeles Dodgers 2B
He's become a more reliable hitter and benefits from an improved supporting cast and increased versatility. You have to wonder if his stolen base output will suffer in the Dodgers lineup, though.
8
Mookie Betts Los Angeles Dodgers RF
Another top-of-the-draft mainstay with a major health issue to address, it's worth remembering that Betts is only 28. He should be good as new once he gets the bone spur removed from his hip this offseason.
9
Jose Ramirez Cleveland Indians 3B
He's not as good as Betts is at his best, particularly with regard to batting average, but it's nice to see him get back to stealing bases down the stretch.
10
Gerrit Cole New York Yankees SP
He's not as clear of a No. 2 at starting pitcher in a world without sticky substances, but he has settled in again after a June slump and still profiles as an easy ace.
11
headshot-image
Walker Buehler Los Angeles Dodgers SP
He's been by far the highest-scoring pitcher in Head-to-Head leagues, and while you'd like to see him get more strikeouts, the ace workload he has taken on this year was the more important hurdle to clear.
12
headshot-image
Mike Trout Los Angeles Angels CF
I'm flabbergasted to see him barely crack my first round and may have to amend upward as the new season approaches, but a lack of stolen bases and increasing injury concerns have made him less than he once was.
Round 2
13
Freddie Freeman Atlanta Braves 1B
There was never reason to doubt him, despite his slow start, and clearly, he's recovered with his usual numbers.
14
Shane Bieber Cleveland Indians SP
What little we might see of him as the season draws to a close could shift his stock some, but more likely downward. We of course know the upside, but he was having some issues locating the ball even before he got hurt.
15
Bo Bichette Toronto Blue Jays SS
He'll need to keep running to continue to rank this high, which is no certainty in the deep lineup he's in. Still, his first full-length season has been mostly everything we hoped it would be.
16
Max Scherzer Los Angeles Dodgers SP
He's a 37-year-old who'll be looking for a new home this offseason, but his dominance continues even if he's not quite taking on the workload he once did.
17
Brandon Woodruff Milwaukee Brewers SP
He just keeps getting better and better and has put to rest his own durability concerns this year, emerging as a no-questions-asked ace.
18
headshot-image
Bryce Harper Philadelphia Phillies RF
He's been a more intentional base-stealer with the Phillies, and his Statcast page is still lit up like a Christmas tree. At this point, it's fair to wonder if he's actually underrated.
19
Corbin Burnes Milwaukee Brewers SP
His numbers merit an even higher ranking, but his dominance has been slightly less since the sticky substance ban went into effect (which may just be a coincidence). He also hasn't been asked to take on an ace workload yet.
20
Yu Darvish San Diego Padres SP
His recent struggles have us all rethinking his ace standing, especially now that he's 35, but he's battle-tested and has a diverse enough arsenal to get back on the path to success.
21
Lucas Giolito Chicago White Sox SP
You might second-guess this one given that his ERA is never quite as low as we'd like it to be, but precious few miss bats at a higher rate than him. Plus, he seems altogether safer than the next two pitchers I might consider, Clayton Kershaw and Jack Flaherty.
22
Rafael Devers Boston Red Sox 3B
He's limited in what he can do for you, providing mostly power at this stage of his career, but there's still opportunity for the 24-year-old to improve. Also, position scarcity has to be a consideration at third base.
23
Xander Bogaerts Boston Red Sox SS
You'll find players with the potential for bigger numbers overall, but you just can't go wrong with Bogaerts, who has proven to be as steady as they come.
24
Kyle Tucker Houston Astros RF
You might swap him out for someone else if you play in a points league and don't care as much about stolen bases -- or you might not. Remove his numbers from April, when offense was down league-wide, and he looks even studlier.