Fantasy Baseball: Re-drafting the first two rounds for the rest of 2019
Wonder how drastically player values have changed at the highest end of the player pool? Scott White considers what the draft would look like a quarter of the way into 2019.
The quarter-way point of the season (we're a little beyond it, actually) is a good time to step back and reconsider some of our assumptions.
Player values have certainly changed since Draft Day, but where are those changes the most definite? And do they penetrate all the way to the top?
The conceit of this piece is that we're drafting for the rest of the season today. We don't benefit from anything a player has done so far, but it does shape our evaluation of him.
No doubt, the players who required the greatest investment came with the firmest assurances and deserve the longest leash. So what would it take to surpass them only a few weeks in?
A lot, as hopefully this exercise shows. Then again, there are players who have legitimately accomplished a lot — enough to make things interesting, at least.
Mike Trout Los Angeles Angels CF
|While Mike Trout actually hasn't been the No. 1 player, he's within striking distance as always and should continue to climb as some of the more outrageous performers slide back a bit. There just isn't a fault to be found with him, and we're going on eight years of that now.|
Cody Bellinger Los Angeles Dodgers RF
|Though I've resisted the idea of moving Cody Bellinger ahead of Mookie Betts, the 1A to Trout's 1 coming into the year, it's getting harder to make the case that the upside is any less now that he's striking out just as infrequently and stealing bases just as frequently — more, even.|
Christian Yelich Milwaukee Brewers RF
|And if I'm moving Bellinger ahead of Betts, I might as well do the same with Christian Yelich, the reigning NL MVP who has somehow improved his production after what seemed like an unsustainable 2018. It still seems inevitable the power pace will slow a bit, but there's enough there with everything else he contributes to make him a top-five player.|
Mookie Betts Boston Red Sox RF
|See? Betts hasn't slipped too far. The difficulty with this exercise is reminding yourself that some players' best hasn't come yet — rarely is production distributed evenly over the course of a season — and Betts probably fits into that category. He has been the 11th-best hitter in points leagues regardless.|
Nolan Arenado Colorado Rockies 3B
|I'm here to confirm Nolan Arenado is doing Nolan Arenado things and offering no reason to remove him from the top five, where I had him in the first place. He has become the most consistently elite hitter this side of Trout but will never quite rise to that level since he doesn't steal bases.|
J.D. Martinez Boston Red Sox DH
|His power production lagged in the early going, but J.D. Martinez has made up significant ground just over the past week (which shows how quickly things can change even at this point in the season). His batted-ball profile never offered cause for concern, though — and in fact, his reduced strikeout rate has made his chances of first-round production less dependent on a high BABIP.|
Max Scherzer Washington Nationals SP
|Ignore the 2-5 record. Ignore even the 3.72 ERA. Max Scherzer has the second-best FIP among qualifying pitchers, the second-most strikeouts, the fifth-highest K/9 and the most innings. He's doing the same things that have made him the best pitcher in Fantasy over the past several years, and no challengers have emerged with a comparable claim to the role.|
Alex Bregman Houston Astros 3B
|All Alex Bregman needed to do to justify his first-round price tag was sustain last year's power breakthrough, and so far, he has only exceeded it. Bat control remains his best attribute, though, and it's how he has managed to be so productive despite a likely-to-improve .246 BABIP.|
Justin Verlander Houston Astros SP
|Justin Verlander's past inconsistencies still dog him, as does his 36 years of age, but he's enjoying his fourth straight year of Cy Young-caliber production. He's among the last of a dying breed of aces who provide elite ratios over an extensive workload, and the sheer scarcity of such an asset makes him first-round material.|
Chris Sale Boston Red Sox SP
|Chris Sale had established himself as the most reliable ace this side of Max Scherzer, but a drop in velocity and subsequent drop in effectiveness back in April spooked Fantasy players so badly that it's a miracle he has already rallied back to first-round standing. The velocity is still down, but not to a level that's unfamiliar to him (see 2016), and he's piling up strikeouts again.|
Francisco Lindor Cleveland Indians SS
|Francisco Lindor probably would have been the fourth player off the board if he hadn't suffered a calf strain back in February, but he has returned looking like the exact same player he was before the injury, which wasn't assured given the length of his recovery. He might even challenge last year's career high in steals.|
Jacob deGrom New York Mets SP
|So far, the highlight of Jacob deGrom's 2019 was another elbow fakeout, which is to say he's fallen short of last year's Cy Young standard. He's missing bats as well as he did then, though, and doesn't appear to have lost anything in terms of stuff, so it's reasonable to assume his best days are still ahead of him.|
Jose Altuve Houston Astros 2B
|Playing much of last year with a fractured kneecap pulled down Jose Altuve's numbers enough to make him something of a bargain on Draft Day, even though he still cost a pretty penny. But while the power has returned, the stolen bases haven't, and missing time with a hamstring injury won't help in that regard. Still, there's a top-five ceiling here, and his low batting average can mostly be attributed to bad BABIP luck.|
Trea Turner Washington Nationals SS
|Fresh off a fractured finger that sidelined him for about six weeks, Trea Turner is set to reclaim his standing as the majors' preeminent base-stealer, and unlike most of the contenders for that title, he has no obvious weaknesses otherwise. He could stand to go four or five spots later in a points league, though.|
Blake Snell Tampa Bay Rays SP
|In terms of percentage, Blake Snell has been the best swing-and-miss pitcher in baseball this year, and it hasn't been particularly close. Last year's AL Cy Young winner only seems to be improving, having cut down on his walks so much this year that they're no longer a knock against them, and might be verging on best-in-Fantasy status if the Rays weren't cutting him off at six innings every time.|
Gerrit Cole Houston Astros SP
|The major league leader in both strikeouts and K/9 has built on his breakthrough from a year ago, and while he's also rarely permitted to throw more than six innings, that's become par for the course in today's pitching environment. It's the main reason why Scherzer and Verlander are deserving of such distinction.|
Trevor Bauer Cleveland Indians SP
|Trevor Bauer's stuff has been as electrifying as during his breakthrough 2018, but his command has given Fantasy players reason for pause. Still, the likelihood of him remaining a game-changer at starting pitcher is high enough that it wouldn't make sense to move him for just another big bat.|
Freddie Freeman Atlanta Braves 1B
|A recent home run binge has solidified Freddie Freeman's second-round standing, putting him closer to the pace we saw in 2016 and 2017 than last year. There isn't a better line-drive hitter in the game, which keeps his batting average high even when the power numbers fall a little short.|
Kris Bryant Chicago Cubs 3B
|Kris Bryant was predisposed to a high ranking as a former top prospect who immediately made good, capturing Rookie of the Year and MVP honors in consecutive seasons. But curiously low home run production the past two years put him in jeopardy of plummeting when he got off to a slow start this year. The past two weeks have redeemed everything.|
Trevor Story Colorado Rockies SS
|Trevor Story's batting average has taken a little bit of a hit recently, but he has checked the two most important boxes for sustaining last year's breakthrough, continuing to strike out just 25 percent of the time and continuing to make stolen bases a part of his game. Coors Field should take care of the rest.|
Ronald Acuna Atlanta Braves LF
|The contingent of Fantasy players who saw Ronald Acuna surging into the top five based on the way he ended last season have no doubt been disappointed so far. But he's plugging away with a similar batted ball profile (fewer strikeouts, actually), which means he could be just a hot streak away from fulfilling those loftiest expectations.|
Javier Baez Chicago Cubs SS
|Though he appeared to be a risky choice in the early rounds, it's harder to claim Javier Baez won't be able to deliver an outlier BABIP and home run-to-fly ball rate again when ... he's doing exactly that. When his bat finds the ball, it's a special kind of contact, and it along with his second base eligibility will give him second-round value even when the batting average normalizes.|
George Springer Houston Astros CF
|George Springer's production has certainly improved this year, but the only thing he appears to be doing differently is hitting the ball harder, which makes this ranking a less confident one. Maybe there's a skill change behind it, but it could just mean he's locked in right now. Still, it's not like he had to leapfrog too many players to climb into the second round.|
Charlie Blackmon Colorado Rockies RF
|In part because of where he plays his home games, Charlie Blackmon is just too reliable to pass up here. Others have outperformed him so far, but what he's doing is more in character and more likely to hold up over the full season.|
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