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Position Eligibility (# of Games)
The number of games a player needs to have played during the previous season in order to qualify at a position.
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Batters
Pitchers
C
1B
2B
SS
3B
OF
LAA (OF)
G
154
AB
527
AVG
.311
HR
42
RBI
92
SB
28
R
116
Trout remains the best overall talent in the game of baseball and should be the first overall player taken in any draft and the most expensive player purchased in any auction. If we could place animated GIFs into player capsules, a mic drop would be the only thing needed to describe what Trout brings to the table. He has raised his on-base percentage five consecutive seasons, and each of the past three has been over .400. There is nothing he does not excel at as he continues to accept his walks when the league does not want to pitch to him, and he is 46-for-his-last-52 in stolen-base attempts. There have been 38 players in the history of baseball who have at least 250 home runs and 200 stolen bases over the course of their career. Trout needs 10 home runs and 11 steals to join that list in 2019, and will have made the list before his 28th birthday. 1.1; set it and forget it.
Trout remains the best overall talent in the game of baseball and should be the first overall player taken in any draft and the most expensive player purchased in any auction. If we could place animated GIFs into player capsules, a mic drop would be the only thing needed to describe what Trout brings to the table. He has raised his on-base percentage five consecutive seasons, and each of the past three has been over .400. There is nothing he does not excel at as he continues to accept his walks when the league does not want to pitch to him, and he is 46-for-his-last-52 in stolen-base attempts. There have been 38 players in the history of baseball who have at least 250 home runs and 200 stolen bases over the course of their career. Trout needs 10 home runs and 11 steals to join that list in 2019, and will have made the list before his 28th birthday. 1.1; set it and forget it.
MIL (OF)
DTD
G
150
AB
581
AVG
.315
HR
37
RBI
115
SB
18
R
108
Few anticipated that the Brewers were trading for the NL MVP when they acquired Yelich from the Marlins last January, but that's exactly what occurred. Yelich got off to a bit of a slow start, but he kept getting better and better at the plate, and had one of the best second halves of all time, posting a 1.219 OPS after the All-Star break. His second-half surge helped him set career highs in nearly every category, and his doubles decreased only because he doubled his home-run total from the year before. Yelich is able to play all three outfield positions and had a better average against lefties (.337) than righties (.321) last season, so there is never much reason to take him out of the lineup. His conditions will be almost the same in his age-27 season. Last year, Yelich proved he has a very high ceiling, but it is his incredibly high floor that makes him such an appealing first-round pick. He is a true five-category building block.
Few anticipated that the Brewers were trading for the NL MVP when they acquired Yelich from the Marlins last January, but that's exactly what occurred. Yelich got off to a bit of a slow start, but he kept getting better and better at the plate, and had one of the best second halves of all time, posting a 1.219 OPS after the All-Star break. His second-half surge helped him set career highs in nearly every category, and his doubles decreased only because he doubled his home-run total from the year before. Yelich is able to play all three outfield positions and had a better average against lefties (.337) than righties (.321) last season, so there is never much reason to take him out of the lineup. His conditions will be almost the same in his age-27 season. Last year, Yelich proved he has a very high ceiling, but it is his incredibly high floor that makes him such an appealing first-round pick. He is a true five-category building block.
WAS (P)
GS
33
IP
215.0
W
18
SV
0
K
286
ERA
2.60
WHIP
0.921
Scherzer has struck out 29% of the hitters he has faced throughout his career. If we took that rate and compared it to his annual strikeout rates over the past four seasons, it would rank lowest. Scherzer has increased his strikeout rate in each of the past five seasons as he shoves his way into his mid-30s. Last year marked the third consecutive season in which he held opposing hitters to a sub-.200 average and the fourth consecutive season in which he finished with a sub-3.00 ERA. He has six consecutive seasons of 200 or more innings pitched and 10 consecutive seasons of 30 or more starts. There are not enough superlatives to discuss his production and there is little debate as to whether he should be taken in the first round of drafts. The only debate is how high to take this staff anchor and how many rounds you can then forego drafting a pitcher. This is the new king of the mountain for fantasy pitchers and he is worth every penny.
Scherzer has struck out 29% of the hitters he has faced throughout his career. If we took that rate and compared it to his annual strikeout rates over the past four seasons, it would rank lowest. Scherzer has increased his strikeout rate in each of the past five seasons as he shoves his way into his mid-30s. Last year marked the third consecutive season in which he held opposing hitters to a sub-.200 average and the fourth consecutive season in which he finished with a sub-3.00 ERA. He has six consecutive seasons of 200 or more innings pitched and 10 consecutive seasons of 30 or more starts. There are not enough superlatives to discuss his production and there is little debate as to whether he should be taken in the first round of drafts. The only debate is how high to take this staff anchor and how many rounds you can then forego drafting a pitcher. This is the new king of the mountain for fantasy pitchers and he is worth every penny.
BOS (OF)
G
146
AB
582
AVG
.320
HR
30
RBI
85
SB
25
R
119
If there were any doubts about Betts' status as one of the best hitters in the game after his "down" 2017 season, he put them to rest with his AL MVP campaign. He may not be Mike Trout, but Betts is arguably now the 1B to Trout's 1A heading into 2019. Betts was second to Trout in wRC+ with a 185 mark, and he ranked fourth among qualified hitters in ISO, which is hard to fathom for a player who is 5-foot-9, 180 pounds. Thanks in part to a swing tweak, Betts added a whopping 82 points to his batting average, besting every other qualifier in average by 16 points, and also led the majors in slugging percentage. And even with all that, his most valuable contributions to fantasy owners came on the basepaths, with Betts going 30-for-36 in stolen-base attempts. In an era where steals are way down, his ability to chip in 25-plus bags annually while doing so much else makes him an incredibly rare commodity. Enjoy the ride.
If there were any doubts about Betts' status as one of the best hitters in the game after his "down" 2017 season, he put them to rest with his AL MVP campaign. He may not be Mike Trout, but Betts is arguably now the 1B to Trout's 1A heading into 2019. Betts was second to Trout in wRC+ with a 185 mark, and he ranked fourth among qualified hitters in ISO, which is hard to fathom for a player who is 5-foot-9, 180 pounds. Thanks in part to a swing tweak, Betts added a whopping 82 points to his batting average, besting every other qualifier in average by 16 points, and also led the majors in slugging percentage. And even with all that, his most valuable contributions to fantasy owners came on the basepaths, with Betts going 30-for-36 in stolen-base attempts. In an era where steals are way down, his ability to chip in 25-plus bags annually while doing so much else makes him an incredibly rare commodity. Enjoy the ride.
BOS (OF)
DTD
G
147
AB
551
AVG
.314
HR
41
RBI
116
SB
3
R
99
Martinez was unsigned deep into last winter, but the wait was worth it after he found the perfect landing spot in Boston. While mainly serving as the club's DH, Martinez avoided the health issues that plagued him as an everyday outfielder the prior two seasons, playing in 150 games and setting career highs in AVG (.330), OBP (.402), RBI (130), runs (111) and extra-base hits (82). As has held true since his 2014 breakout, Martinez remains a Statcast darling, with his elite hard-hit and barrel rates yielding elevated BABIPs for a player with limited speed. The stellar batted-ball metrics bolster Martinez's odds of finishing near the top of the home-run and average leaderboards again in 2019, while his spot in a lineup that includes a bevy of young stars sets him up for ample run-producing and run-scoring chances. Martinez retains outfield eligibility after logging 57 starts in 2018, mitigating any concern about his worthiness of a first-round selection.
Martinez was unsigned deep into last winter, but the wait was worth it after he found the perfect landing spot in Boston. While mainly serving as the club's DH, Martinez avoided the health issues that plagued him as an everyday outfielder the prior two seasons, playing in 150 games and setting career highs in AVG (.330), OBP (.402), RBI (130), runs (111) and extra-base hits (82). As has held true since his 2014 breakout, Martinez remains a Statcast darling, with his elite hard-hit and barrel rates yielding elevated BABIPs for a player with limited speed. The stellar batted-ball metrics bolster Martinez's odds of finishing near the top of the home-run and average leaderboards again in 2019, while his spot in a lineup that includes a bevy of young stars sets him up for ample run-producing and run-scoring chances. Martinez retains outfield eligibility after logging 57 starts in 2018, mitigating any concern about his worthiness of a first-round selection.
COL (3B)
G
158
AB
604
AVG
.300
HR
39
RBI
115
SB
1
R
101
With nothing worse than 37 home runs, 110 RBI, 104 runs or a .287 average in the past four seasons, Arenado is one of the more bankable four-category pillars around. A 20-RBI downturn was the main culprit behind Arenado finishing a tick below the elite fantasy hitters last season, but a return to the top-five ranks in his age-28 campaign is feasible in light of his favorable home park and sound health record. Coming off a postseason berth, the Rockies could look to supplement an offense that ranked 25th in the majors in wRC+ (87), which would stave off any further downturn in Arenado's run and RBI counts. Arenado would help his own cause with some slight improvement against same-handed pitching (.267/.339/.483 line in 2018), but even that probably won't be necessary for him to meet his draft-day price given his unparalleled excellence versus lefties (an MLB-best 207 wRC+ the past two seasons) and otherworldly production at Coors Field.
With nothing worse than 37 home runs, 110 RBI, 104 runs or a .287 average in the past four seasons, Arenado is one of the more bankable four-category pillars around. A 20-RBI downturn was the main culprit behind Arenado finishing a tick below the elite fantasy hitters last season, but a return to the top-five ranks in his age-28 campaign is feasible in light of his favorable home park and sound health record. Coming off a postseason berth, the Rockies could look to supplement an offense that ranked 25th in the majors in wRC+ (87), which would stave off any further downturn in Arenado's run and RBI counts. Arenado would help his own cause with some slight improvement against same-handed pitching (.267/.339/.483 line in 2018), but even that probably won't be necessary for him to meet his draft-day price given his unparalleled excellence versus lefties (an MLB-best 207 wRC+ the past two seasons) and otherworldly production at Coors Field.
ATL (OF)
G
153
AB
599
AVG
.301
HR
30
RBI
85
SB
23
R
102
A lot of top prospects fail to live up to the hype. Acuna was not one of them. After receiving the "Kris Bryant Treatment," Acuna got the call to Atlanta on April 25 and ended up returning top-20 value in the outfield in just 487 plate appearances. The incredible bat speed he showed as a prospect manifested itself right away with Acuna hitting for both average and power. His barrel rate of 8.6 Brls/PA was a top-20 mark in baseball (min. 150 batted-ball events), and his recorded sprint speed was also elite. It's incredible to think of what the numbers could have looked like had Acuna not missed a month with a knee sprain. While it's not wise to prorate stats for most players, Acuna is the rare exception with whom it's totally plausible to think he could keep up a similar rate of production over the course of a full season. There is some swing and miss here (25.3%), but Acuna may lead off for the Braves and his physical tools are right up there with the best of the best.
A lot of top prospects fail to live up to the hype. Acuna was not one of them. After receiving the "Kris Bryant Treatment," Acuna got the call to Atlanta on April 25 and ended up returning top-20 value in the outfield in just 487 plate appearances. The incredible bat speed he showed as a prospect manifested itself right away with Acuna hitting for both average and power. His barrel rate of 8.6 Brls/PA was a top-20 mark in baseball (min. 150 batted-ball events), and his recorded sprint speed was also elite. It's incredible to think of what the numbers could have looked like had Acuna not missed a month with a knee sprain. While it's not wise to prorate stats for most players, Acuna is the rare exception with whom it's totally plausible to think he could keep up a similar rate of production over the course of a full season. There is some swing and miss here (25.3%), but Acuna may lead off for the Braves and his physical tools are right up there with the best of the best.
CLE (3B)
G
154
AB
581
AVG
.272
HR
32
RBI
96
SB
24
R
99
At the end of July, Ramirez was fantasy's most valuable player, having hit .298/.408/.630 with 32 home runs and 25 stolen bases through 105 games. Ramirez then limped to a .210/.343/.387 line with seven homers and nine steals over his final 52 regular-season games. So, how much do we downgrade him because of that late slide? Per Statcast, Ramirez had a .209 xBA, .339 xSLG and 87.3 mph average exit velocity over the final two months, so it wasn't just all bad luck. His average flyball distance was also down to 181 feet down the stretch (203 feet over the first four months). The final numbers were still elite, but given the caliber of talent in the game today, it's not unreasonable to think Ramirez, a top-five overall earner in 2018, should perhaps fall closer to the 1-2 turn in mixed leagues.
At the end of July, Ramirez was fantasy's most valuable player, having hit .298/.408/.630 with 32 home runs and 25 stolen bases through 105 games. Ramirez then limped to a .210/.343/.387 line with seven homers and nine steals over his final 52 regular-season games. So, how much do we downgrade him because of that late slide? Per Statcast, Ramirez had a .209 xBA, .339 xSLG and 87.3 mph average exit velocity over the final two months, so it wasn't just all bad luck. His average flyball distance was also down to 181 feet down the stretch (203 feet over the first four months). The final numbers were still elite, but given the caliber of talent in the game today, it's not unreasonable to think Ramirez, a top-five overall earner in 2018, should perhaps fall closer to the 1-2 turn in mixed leagues.
ATL (1B)
G
160
AB
604
AVG
.308
HR
29
RBI
105
SB
9
R
101
In a season where the headlines were dominated by phenoms Ronald Acuna and Ozzie Albies, Freeman was the rock in the three hole for the Braves in their resurgent season. He played in all 162 games for the second time in his nine-year career while hitting over .300 (.309) for a third straight season. Freeman did experience a dip in power with his lowest home-run rate since 2014 (3.3%), but managed to offset that somewhat by leading the majors in hits (191) and doubles -- a career-high 44. He also notched a career-best 10 steals and has attempted 13 steals in back-to-back seasons, so look for him to be a modest contributor on the bases again in 2019. With an impressive young core and the free-agent addition of Josh Donaldson, Atlanta's offense continues to trend up, giving Freeman a chance to improve on his 2018 counting stats. First base is no longer a bastion of elite fantasy hitters, but Freeman is an exception entering his age-29 season.
In a season where the headlines were dominated by phenoms Ronald Acuna and Ozzie Albies, Freeman was the rock in the three hole for the Braves in their resurgent season. He played in all 162 games for the second time in his nine-year career while hitting over .300 (.309) for a third straight season. Freeman did experience a dip in power with his lowest home-run rate since 2014 (3.3%), but managed to offset that somewhat by leading the majors in hits (191) and doubles -- a career-high 44. He also notched a career-best 10 steals and has attempted 13 steals in back-to-back seasons, so look for him to be a modest contributor on the bases again in 2019. With an impressive young core and the free-agent addition of Josh Donaldson, Atlanta's offense continues to trend up, giving Freeman a chance to improve on his 2018 counting stats. First base is no longer a bastion of elite fantasy hitters, but Freeman is an exception entering his age-29 season.
STL (1B)
G
157
AB
580
AVG
.298
HR
33
RBI
107
SB
7
R
101
The impact of the humidor was felt in Arizona, but it did not affect Goldschmidt's power numbers. His 2017 and 2018 seasons were essentially identical; he had 73 extra-base hits in 2017, and repeated that number in 2018. He lost three homers that became doubles and triples. The problem for him was that the talent around him fell off so his run-producing opportunities were impacted. From 2015 to 2017, Goldschmidt had an average of 431 runners on base each season when he was at the plate. In 2018, that number dropped to 386. He also ran far less frequently, continuing a trend from 2017. Goldschmidt's year-over-year skills are stable and safe, and the counting numbers should improve following a December trade to the Cardinals. We have to wonder if the days of double-digit steals are gone for good, but this is still a skill set worthy of an early selection -- just probably not a first-round pick anymore.
The impact of the humidor was felt in Arizona, but it did not affect Goldschmidt's power numbers. His 2017 and 2018 seasons were essentially identical; he had 73 extra-base hits in 2017, and repeated that number in 2018. He lost three homers that became doubles and triples. The problem for him was that the talent around him fell off so his run-producing opportunities were impacted. From 2015 to 2017, Goldschmidt had an average of 431 runners on base each season when he was at the plate. In 2018, that number dropped to 386. He also ran far less frequently, continuing a trend from 2017. Goldschmidt's year-over-year skills are stable and safe, and the counting numbers should improve following a December trade to the Cardinals. We have to wonder if the days of double-digit steals are gone for good, but this is still a skill set worthy of an early selection -- just probably not a first-round pick anymore.
COL (OF)
G
151
AB
603
AVG
.312
HR
30
RBI
86
SB
9
R
120
Blackmon was a top fantasy option just two years ago. Sure, he’ll turn 33 in July and there are signs of skills decline, but chances are rumors of his demise are premature. Blackmon’s 19.3 K% last season was the highest of his career, but assuming it doesn’t get much worse, it’s still better than average. His power waned due to a four-point drop in flyball rate, but his 17.7 % HR/FB was his second best ever. Blackmon’s running has curtailed, but remember he swiped only 14 bags in his stellar 2017 season, a number certainly still within reach. Aside from playing in Coors Field, Blackmon’s numbers are driven by volume, playing at least 154 games four of the past five seasons, averaging 678 PA during that span. The market appears to be over-penalizing a fantasy stud for a down age-32 season. He may not rebound to a first-round, $30 level, but Blackmon has plenty left in his tank.
Blackmon was a top fantasy option just two years ago. Sure, he’ll turn 33 in July and there are signs of skills decline, but chances are rumors of his demise are premature. Blackmon’s 19.3 K% last season was the highest of his career, but assuming it doesn’t get much worse, it’s still better than average. His power waned due to a four-point drop in flyball rate, but his 17.7 % HR/FB was his second best ever. Blackmon’s running has curtailed, but remember he swiped only 14 bags in his stellar 2017 season, a number certainly still within reach. Aside from playing in Coors Field, Blackmon’s numbers are driven by volume, playing at least 154 games four of the past five seasons, averaging 678 PA during that span. The market appears to be over-penalizing a fantasy stud for a down age-32 season. He may not rebound to a first-round, $30 level, but Blackmon has plenty left in his tank.
SD (SS)
G
158
AB
633
AVG
.289
HR
36
RBI
103
SB
12
R
90
It’s rare a superstar hits free agency entering his age-26 season, but that’s what happens when you debut at 19. Machado is coming off arguably his best year as he exhibited above-average-to-elite skills across the board. He set new career best levels in contact and walk rate, contributing to new personal highs in average, homers and RBI. Plus, Machado returned to swiping double-digit bases with his best ever success rate. Much has been made of Machado’s “Johnny Hustle” comment and the ensuing backtrack clarification, but missing only 11 games over the past four campaigns, including playing all 162 in 2015 and 2018, speaks volumes. It’s no secret the defensive metrics rank him as one of the best at the hot corner but below average at shortstop. For fantasy, it doesn’t matter, though he’s lost dual eligibility, entering 2019 as shortstop only. Machado has it all: durability, elite skills and youth. Ignore the rest. He’s one of the top players in the game.
It’s rare a superstar hits free agency entering his age-26 season, but that’s what happens when you debut at 19. Machado is coming off arguably his best year as he exhibited above-average-to-elite skills across the board. He set new career best levels in contact and walk rate, contributing to new personal highs in average, homers and RBI. Plus, Machado returned to swiping double-digit bases with his best ever success rate. Much has been made of Machado’s “Johnny Hustle” comment and the ensuing backtrack clarification, but missing only 11 games over the past four campaigns, including playing all 162 in 2015 and 2018, speaks volumes. It’s no secret the defensive metrics rank him as one of the best at the hot corner but below average at shortstop. For fantasy, it doesn’t matter, though he’s lost dual eligibility, entering 2019 as shortstop only. Machado has it all: durability, elite skills and youth. Ignore the rest. He’s one of the top players in the game.
LAD (1B)
G
158
AB
538
AVG
.286
HR
38
RBI
102
SB
9
R
98
Big things were expected from Bellinger in his second season after he ran away with the NL Rookie of the Year award. He did steal four more bases than he did in 2017 -- albeit in 30 more games -- but his numbers declined in the other standard fantasy categories and all three rates in his slash line, even as he lowered his strikeout rate and improved his BB:K. Those improvements helped him hit .285 and post a .369 OBP after the All-Star break, but that came at the expense of even more power. He also struggled quite a bit against southpaws in year two, as his OPS dipped from .903 to just .681. Despite the overall decline, Bellinger is still a versatile fantasy option, able to play two positions and contribute across the board. The increases in the second half suggest some improvement in plate selection, and there’s plenty of reason to expect Bellinger -- who won’t turn 24 until July 13 -- to bounce back if he can find his power stroke again.
Big things were expected from Bellinger in his second season after he ran away with the NL Rookie of the Year award. He did steal four more bases than he did in 2017 -- albeit in 30 more games -- but his numbers declined in the other standard fantasy categories and all three rates in his slash line, even as he lowered his strikeout rate and improved his BB:K. Those improvements helped him hit .285 and post a .369 OBP after the All-Star break, but that came at the expense of even more power. He also struggled quite a bit against southpaws in year two, as his OPS dipped from .903 to just .681. Despite the overall decline, Bellinger is still a versatile fantasy option, able to play two positions and contribute across the board. The increases in the second half suggest some improvement in plate selection, and there’s plenty of reason to expect Bellinger -- who won’t turn 24 until July 13 -- to bounce back if he can find his power stroke again.
CLE (SS)
G
150
AB
614
AVG
.285
HR
33
RBI
86
SB
17
R
105
Lindor has three full seasons in the majors, and has shown linear statistical improvement in nearly every category. In each of the past three seasons, his home runs, slugging percentage and RBI have increased year over year while his runs went from repeating to surging last season. He has shown a willingness to take his walks (9.4 BB%) and he puts bat to ball with consistency (14.4 K%). Lindor, teammate Jose Ramirez, Robinson Cano, and Nolan Arenado are the only players in recent seasons with at least 35 home runs and a strikeout rate no higher than 15%. His stolen-base attempts jumped from 18 in 2017 to 35 last season, but his success rate took a dive as he was caught 10 times, which may limit his ability to join Ramirez in the 30-30 club. The tools are all here for another outstanding offensive season even if continuing the statistical linear growth looks rather impossible given the level he has already achieved before his 25th birthday.
Lindor has three full seasons in the majors, and has shown linear statistical improvement in nearly every category. In each of the past three seasons, his home runs, slugging percentage and RBI have increased year over year while his runs went from repeating to surging last season. He has shown a willingness to take his walks (9.4 BB%) and he puts bat to ball with consistency (14.4 K%). Lindor, teammate Jose Ramirez, Robinson Cano, and Nolan Arenado are the only players in recent seasons with at least 35 home runs and a strikeout rate no higher than 15%. His stolen-base attempts jumped from 18 in 2017 to 35 last season, but his success rate took a dive as he was caught 10 times, which may limit his ability to join Ramirez in the 30-30 club. The tools are all here for another outstanding offensive season even if continuing the statistical linear growth looks rather impossible given the level he has already achieved before his 25th birthday.
HOU (P)
GS
33
IP
207.0
W
15
SV
0
K
261
ERA
3.00
WHIP
1.039
Though he was denied a second Cy Young, the case can be made that Verlander submitted a career year. His walk and strikeout rates were both personal bests, while his ERA and WHIP were roughly on par with those he posted in his 2011 AL MVP campaign. If there’s a nit to pick, it’s that Verlander’s elevated flyball rate yielded 25-plus homers for the third straight season, but his stinginess with free passes limited the impact of the long balls. As his age-36 season approaches, Verlander has given no reason to doubt him keeping his spot in the top echelon of starters. His average velocity is actually up from his latter years with Detroit, and he had positive values for each of his three most common offerings in 2018 while limiting hitters to a 71.6% contact rate, which was nearly seven points below his career mark. Once again backed by a top-notch supporting cast, Verlander projects as a four-category standout even if his peripherals fade a bit.
Though he was denied a second Cy Young, the case can be made that Verlander submitted a career year. His walk and strikeout rates were both personal bests, while his ERA and WHIP were roughly on par with those he posted in his 2011 AL MVP campaign. If there’s a nit to pick, it’s that Verlander’s elevated flyball rate yielded 25-plus homers for the third straight season, but his stinginess with free passes limited the impact of the long balls. As his age-36 season approaches, Verlander has given no reason to doubt him keeping his spot in the top echelon of starters. His average velocity is actually up from his latter years with Detroit, and he had positive values for each of his three most common offerings in 2018 while limiting hitters to a 71.6% contact rate, which was nearly seven points below his career mark. Once again backed by a top-notch supporting cast, Verlander projects as a four-category standout even if his peripherals fade a bit.
The rest of our Fantasy Baseball Outlooks & Rankings are reserved for RotoWire subscribers.
LAA (OF)
G
154
AB
527
AVG
.311
HR
42
RBI
92
SB
28
R
116
Trout remains the best overall talent in the game of baseball and should be the first overall player taken in any draft and the most expensive player purchased in any auction. If we could place animated GIFs into player capsules, a mic drop would be the only thing needed to describe what Trout brings to the table. He has raised his on-base percentage five consecutive seasons, and each of the past three has been over .400. There is nothing he does not excel at as he continues to accept his walks when the league does not want to pitch to him, and he is 46-for-his-last-52 in stolen-base attempts. There have been 38 players in the history of baseball who have at least 250 home runs and 200 stolen bases over the course of their career. Trout needs 10 home runs and 11 steals to join that list in 2019, and will have made the list before his 28th birthday. 1.1; set it and forget it.
Trout remains the best overall talent in the game of baseball and should be the first overall player taken in any draft and the most expensive player purchased in any auction. If we could place animated GIFs into player capsules, a mic drop would be the only thing needed to describe what Trout brings to the table. He has raised his on-base percentage five consecutive seasons, and each of the past three has been over .400. There is nothing he does not excel at as he continues to accept his walks when the league does not want to pitch to him, and he is 46-for-his-last-52 in stolen-base attempts. There have been 38 players in the history of baseball who have at least 250 home runs and 200 stolen bases over the course of their career. Trout needs 10 home runs and 11 steals to join that list in 2019, and will have made the list before his 28th birthday. 1.1; set it and forget it.
MIL (OF)
DTD
G
150
AB
581
AVG
.315
HR
37
RBI
115
SB
18
R
108
Few anticipated that the Brewers were trading for the NL MVP when they acquired Yelich from the Marlins last January, but that's exactly what occurred. Yelich got off to a bit of a slow start, but he kept getting better and better at the plate, and had one of the best second halves of all time, posting a 1.219 OPS after the All-Star break. His second-half surge helped him set career highs in nearly every category, and his doubles decreased only because he doubled his home-run total from the year before. Yelich is able to play all three outfield positions and had a better average against lefties (.337) than righties (.321) last season, so there is never much reason to take him out of the lineup. His conditions will be almost the same in his age-27 season. Last year, Yelich proved he has a very high ceiling, but it is his incredibly high floor that makes him such an appealing first-round pick. He is a true five-category building block.
Few anticipated that the Brewers were trading for the NL MVP when they acquired Yelich from the Marlins last January, but that's exactly what occurred. Yelich got off to a bit of a slow start, but he kept getting better and better at the plate, and had one of the best second halves of all time, posting a 1.219 OPS after the All-Star break. His second-half surge helped him set career highs in nearly every category, and his doubles decreased only because he doubled his home-run total from the year before. Yelich is able to play all three outfield positions and had a better average against lefties (.337) than righties (.321) last season, so there is never much reason to take him out of the lineup. His conditions will be almost the same in his age-27 season. Last year, Yelich proved he has a very high ceiling, but it is his incredibly high floor that makes him such an appealing first-round pick. He is a true five-category building block.
BOS (OF)
G
146
AB
582
AVG
.320
HR
30
RBI
85
SB
25
R
119
If there were any doubts about Betts' status as one of the best hitters in the game after his "down" 2017 season, he put them to rest with his AL MVP campaign. He may not be Mike Trout, but Betts is arguably now the 1B to Trout's 1A heading into 2019. Betts was second to Trout in wRC+ with a 185 mark, and he ranked fourth among qualified hitters in ISO, which is hard to fathom for a player who is 5-foot-9, 180 pounds. Thanks in part to a swing tweak, Betts added a whopping 82 points to his batting average, besting every other qualifier in average by 16 points, and also led the majors in slugging percentage. And even with all that, his most valuable contributions to fantasy owners came on the basepaths, with Betts going 30-for-36 in stolen-base attempts. In an era where steals are way down, his ability to chip in 25-plus bags annually while doing so much else makes him an incredibly rare commodity. Enjoy the ride.
If there were any doubts about Betts' status as one of the best hitters in the game after his "down" 2017 season, he put them to rest with his AL MVP campaign. He may not be Mike Trout, but Betts is arguably now the 1B to Trout's 1A heading into 2019. Betts was second to Trout in wRC+ with a 185 mark, and he ranked fourth among qualified hitters in ISO, which is hard to fathom for a player who is 5-foot-9, 180 pounds. Thanks in part to a swing tweak, Betts added a whopping 82 points to his batting average, besting every other qualifier in average by 16 points, and also led the majors in slugging percentage. And even with all that, his most valuable contributions to fantasy owners came on the basepaths, with Betts going 30-for-36 in stolen-base attempts. In an era where steals are way down, his ability to chip in 25-plus bags annually while doing so much else makes him an incredibly rare commodity. Enjoy the ride.
BOS (OF)
DTD
G
147
AB
551
AVG
.314
HR
41
RBI
116
SB
3
R
99
Martinez was unsigned deep into last winter, but the wait was worth it after he found the perfect landing spot in Boston. While mainly serving as the club's DH, Martinez avoided the health issues that plagued him as an everyday outfielder the prior two seasons, playing in 150 games and setting career highs in AVG (.330), OBP (.402), RBI (130), runs (111) and extra-base hits (82). As has held true since his 2014 breakout, Martinez remains a Statcast darling, with his elite hard-hit and barrel rates yielding elevated BABIPs for a player with limited speed. The stellar batted-ball metrics bolster Martinez's odds of finishing near the top of the home-run and average leaderboards again in 2019, while his spot in a lineup that includes a bevy of young stars sets him up for ample run-producing and run-scoring chances. Martinez retains outfield eligibility after logging 57 starts in 2018, mitigating any concern about his worthiness of a first-round selection.
Martinez was unsigned deep into last winter, but the wait was worth it after he found the perfect landing spot in Boston. While mainly serving as the club's DH, Martinez avoided the health issues that plagued him as an everyday outfielder the prior two seasons, playing in 150 games and setting career highs in AVG (.330), OBP (.402), RBI (130), runs (111) and extra-base hits (82). As has held true since his 2014 breakout, Martinez remains a Statcast darling, with his elite hard-hit and barrel rates yielding elevated BABIPs for a player with limited speed. The stellar batted-ball metrics bolster Martinez's odds of finishing near the top of the home-run and average leaderboards again in 2019, while his spot in a lineup that includes a bevy of young stars sets him up for ample run-producing and run-scoring chances. Martinez retains outfield eligibility after logging 57 starts in 2018, mitigating any concern about his worthiness of a first-round selection.
COL (3B)
G
158
AB
604
AVG
.300
HR
39
RBI
115
SB
1
R
101
With nothing worse than 37 home runs, 110 RBI, 104 runs or a .287 average in the past four seasons, Arenado is one of the more bankable four-category pillars around. A 20-RBI downturn was the main culprit behind Arenado finishing a tick below the elite fantasy hitters last season, but a return to the top-five ranks in his age-28 campaign is feasible in light of his favorable home park and sound health record. Coming off a postseason berth, the Rockies could look to supplement an offense that ranked 25th in the majors in wRC+ (87), which would stave off any further downturn in Arenado's run and RBI counts. Arenado would help his own cause with some slight improvement against same-handed pitching (.267/.339/.483 line in 2018), but even that probably won't be necessary for him to meet his draft-day price given his unparalleled excellence versus lefties (an MLB-best 207 wRC+ the past two seasons) and otherworldly production at Coors Field.
With nothing worse than 37 home runs, 110 RBI, 104 runs or a .287 average in the past four seasons, Arenado is one of the more bankable four-category pillars around. A 20-RBI downturn was the main culprit behind Arenado finishing a tick below the elite fantasy hitters last season, but a return to the top-five ranks in his age-28 campaign is feasible in light of his favorable home park and sound health record. Coming off a postseason berth, the Rockies could look to supplement an offense that ranked 25th in the majors in wRC+ (87), which would stave off any further downturn in Arenado's run and RBI counts. Arenado would help his own cause with some slight improvement against same-handed pitching (.267/.339/.483 line in 2018), but even that probably won't be necessary for him to meet his draft-day price given his unparalleled excellence versus lefties (an MLB-best 207 wRC+ the past two seasons) and otherworldly production at Coors Field.
ATL (OF)
G
153
AB
599
AVG
.301
HR
30
RBI
85
SB
23
R
102
A lot of top prospects fail to live up to the hype. Acuna was not one of them. After receiving the "Kris Bryant Treatment," Acuna got the call to Atlanta on April 25 and ended up returning top-20 value in the outfield in just 487 plate appearances. The incredible bat speed he showed as a prospect manifested itself right away with Acuna hitting for both average and power. His barrel rate of 8.6 Brls/PA was a top-20 mark in baseball (min. 150 batted-ball events), and his recorded sprint speed was also elite. It's incredible to think of what the numbers could have looked like had Acuna not missed a month with a knee sprain. While it's not wise to prorate stats for most players, Acuna is the rare exception with whom it's totally plausible to think he could keep up a similar rate of production over the course of a full season. There is some swing and miss here (25.3%), but Acuna may lead off for the Braves and his physical tools are right up there with the best of the best.
A lot of top prospects fail to live up to the hype. Acuna was not one of them. After receiving the "Kris Bryant Treatment," Acuna got the call to Atlanta on April 25 and ended up returning top-20 value in the outfield in just 487 plate appearances. The incredible bat speed he showed as a prospect manifested itself right away with Acuna hitting for both average and power. His barrel rate of 8.6 Brls/PA was a top-20 mark in baseball (min. 150 batted-ball events), and his recorded sprint speed was also elite. It's incredible to think of what the numbers could have looked like had Acuna not missed a month with a knee sprain. While it's not wise to prorate stats for most players, Acuna is the rare exception with whom it's totally plausible to think he could keep up a similar rate of production over the course of a full season. There is some swing and miss here (25.3%), but Acuna may lead off for the Braves and his physical tools are right up there with the best of the best.
CLE (3B)
G
154
AB
581
AVG
.272
HR
32
RBI
96
SB
24
R
99
At the end of July, Ramirez was fantasy's most valuable player, having hit .298/.408/.630 with 32 home runs and 25 stolen bases through 105 games. Ramirez then limped to a .210/.343/.387 line with seven homers and nine steals over his final 52 regular-season games. So, how much do we downgrade him because of that late slide? Per Statcast, Ramirez had a .209 xBA, .339 xSLG and 87.3 mph average exit velocity over the final two months, so it wasn't just all bad luck. His average flyball distance was also down to 181 feet down the stretch (203 feet over the first four months). The final numbers were still elite, but given the caliber of talent in the game today, it's not unreasonable to think Ramirez, a top-five overall earner in 2018, should perhaps fall closer to the 1-2 turn in mixed leagues.
At the end of July, Ramirez was fantasy's most valuable player, having hit .298/.408/.630 with 32 home runs and 25 stolen bases through 105 games. Ramirez then limped to a .210/.343/.387 line with seven homers and nine steals over his final 52 regular-season games. So, how much do we downgrade him because of that late slide? Per Statcast, Ramirez had a .209 xBA, .339 xSLG and 87.3 mph average exit velocity over the final two months, so it wasn't just all bad luck. His average flyball distance was also down to 181 feet down the stretch (203 feet over the first four months). The final numbers were still elite, but given the caliber of talent in the game today, it's not unreasonable to think Ramirez, a top-five overall earner in 2018, should perhaps fall closer to the 1-2 turn in mixed leagues.
ATL (1B)
G
160
AB
604
AVG
.308
HR
29
RBI
105
SB
9
R
101
In a season where the headlines were dominated by phenoms Ronald Acuna and Ozzie Albies, Freeman was the rock in the three hole for the Braves in their resurgent season. He played in all 162 games for the second time in his nine-year career while hitting over .300 (.309) for a third straight season. Freeman did experience a dip in power with his lowest home-run rate since 2014 (3.3%), but managed to offset that somewhat by leading the majors in hits (191) and doubles -- a career-high 44. He also notched a career-best 10 steals and has attempted 13 steals in back-to-back seasons, so look for him to be a modest contributor on the bases again in 2019. With an impressive young core and the free-agent addition of Josh Donaldson, Atlanta's offense continues to trend up, giving Freeman a chance to improve on his 2018 counting stats. First base is no longer a bastion of elite fantasy hitters, but Freeman is an exception entering his age-29 season.
In a season where the headlines were dominated by phenoms Ronald Acuna and Ozzie Albies, Freeman was the rock in the three hole for the Braves in their resurgent season. He played in all 162 games for the second time in his nine-year career while hitting over .300 (.309) for a third straight season. Freeman did experience a dip in power with his lowest home-run rate since 2014 (3.3%), but managed to offset that somewhat by leading the majors in hits (191) and doubles -- a career-high 44. He also notched a career-best 10 steals and has attempted 13 steals in back-to-back seasons, so look for him to be a modest contributor on the bases again in 2019. With an impressive young core and the free-agent addition of Josh Donaldson, Atlanta's offense continues to trend up, giving Freeman a chance to improve on his 2018 counting stats. First base is no longer a bastion of elite fantasy hitters, but Freeman is an exception entering his age-29 season.
STL (1B)
G
157
AB
580
AVG
.298
HR
33
RBI
107
SB
7
R
101
The impact of the humidor was felt in Arizona, but it did not affect Goldschmidt's power numbers. His 2017 and 2018 seasons were essentially identical; he had 73 extra-base hits in 2017, and repeated that number in 2018. He lost three homers that became doubles and triples. The problem for him was that the talent around him fell off so his run-producing opportunities were impacted. From 2015 to 2017, Goldschmidt had an average of 431 runners on base each season when he was at the plate. In 2018, that number dropped to 386. He also ran far less frequently, continuing a trend from 2017. Goldschmidt's year-over-year skills are stable and safe, and the counting numbers should improve following a December trade to the Cardinals. We have to wonder if the days of double-digit steals are gone for good, but this is still a skill set worthy of an early selection -- just probably not a first-round pick anymore.
The impact of the humidor was felt in Arizona, but it did not affect Goldschmidt's power numbers. His 2017 and 2018 seasons were essentially identical; he had 73 extra-base hits in 2017, and repeated that number in 2018. He lost three homers that became doubles and triples. The problem for him was that the talent around him fell off so his run-producing opportunities were impacted. From 2015 to 2017, Goldschmidt had an average of 431 runners on base each season when he was at the plate. In 2018, that number dropped to 386. He also ran far less frequently, continuing a trend from 2017. Goldschmidt's year-over-year skills are stable and safe, and the counting numbers should improve following a December trade to the Cardinals. We have to wonder if the days of double-digit steals are gone for good, but this is still a skill set worthy of an early selection -- just probably not a first-round pick anymore.
COL (OF)
G
151
AB
603
AVG
.312
HR
30
RBI
86
SB
9
R
120
Blackmon was a top fantasy option just two years ago. Sure, he’ll turn 33 in July and there are signs of skills decline, but chances are rumors of his demise are premature. Blackmon’s 19.3 K% last season was the highest of his career, but assuming it doesn’t get much worse, it’s still better than average. His power waned due to a four-point drop in flyball rate, but his 17.7 % HR/FB was his second best ever. Blackmon’s running has curtailed, but remember he swiped only 14 bags in his stellar 2017 season, a number certainly still within reach. Aside from playing in Coors Field, Blackmon’s numbers are driven by volume, playing at least 154 games four of the past five seasons, averaging 678 PA during that span. The market appears to be over-penalizing a fantasy stud for a down age-32 season. He may not rebound to a first-round, $30 level, but Blackmon has plenty left in his tank.
Blackmon was a top fantasy option just two years ago. Sure, he’ll turn 33 in July and there are signs of skills decline, but chances are rumors of his demise are premature. Blackmon’s 19.3 K% last season was the highest of his career, but assuming it doesn’t get much worse, it’s still better than average. His power waned due to a four-point drop in flyball rate, but his 17.7 % HR/FB was his second best ever. Blackmon’s running has curtailed, but remember he swiped only 14 bags in his stellar 2017 season, a number certainly still within reach. Aside from playing in Coors Field, Blackmon’s numbers are driven by volume, playing at least 154 games four of the past five seasons, averaging 678 PA during that span. The market appears to be over-penalizing a fantasy stud for a down age-32 season. He may not rebound to a first-round, $30 level, but Blackmon has plenty left in his tank.
SD (SS)
G
158
AB
633
AVG
.289
HR
36
RBI
103
SB
12
R
90
It’s rare a superstar hits free agency entering his age-26 season, but that’s what happens when you debut at 19. Machado is coming off arguably his best year as he exhibited above-average-to-elite skills across the board. He set new career best levels in contact and walk rate, contributing to new personal highs in average, homers and RBI. Plus, Machado returned to swiping double-digit bases with his best ever success rate. Much has been made of Machado’s “Johnny Hustle” comment and the ensuing backtrack clarification, but missing only 11 games over the past four campaigns, including playing all 162 in 2015 and 2018, speaks volumes. It’s no secret the defensive metrics rank him as one of the best at the hot corner but below average at shortstop. For fantasy, it doesn’t matter, though he’s lost dual eligibility, entering 2019 as shortstop only. Machado has it all: durability, elite skills and youth. Ignore the rest. He’s one of the top players in the game.
It’s rare a superstar hits free agency entering his age-26 season, but that’s what happens when you debut at 19. Machado is coming off arguably his best year as he exhibited above-average-to-elite skills across the board. He set new career best levels in contact and walk rate, contributing to new personal highs in average, homers and RBI. Plus, Machado returned to swiping double-digit bases with his best ever success rate. Much has been made of Machado’s “Johnny Hustle” comment and the ensuing backtrack clarification, but missing only 11 games over the past four campaigns, including playing all 162 in 2015 and 2018, speaks volumes. It’s no secret the defensive metrics rank him as one of the best at the hot corner but below average at shortstop. For fantasy, it doesn’t matter, though he’s lost dual eligibility, entering 2019 as shortstop only. Machado has it all: durability, elite skills and youth. Ignore the rest. He’s one of the top players in the game.
LAD (1B)
G
158
AB
538
AVG
.286
HR
38
RBI
102
SB
9
R
98
Big things were expected from Bellinger in his second season after he ran away with the NL Rookie of the Year award. He did steal four more bases than he did in 2017 -- albeit in 30 more games -- but his numbers declined in the other standard fantasy categories and all three rates in his slash line, even as he lowered his strikeout rate and improved his BB:K. Those improvements helped him hit .285 and post a .369 OBP after the All-Star break, but that came at the expense of even more power. He also struggled quite a bit against southpaws in year two, as his OPS dipped from .903 to just .681. Despite the overall decline, Bellinger is still a versatile fantasy option, able to play two positions and contribute across the board. The increases in the second half suggest some improvement in plate selection, and there’s plenty of reason to expect Bellinger -- who won’t turn 24 until July 13 -- to bounce back if he can find his power stroke again.
Big things were expected from Bellinger in his second season after he ran away with the NL Rookie of the Year award. He did steal four more bases than he did in 2017 -- albeit in 30 more games -- but his numbers declined in the other standard fantasy categories and all three rates in his slash line, even as he lowered his strikeout rate and improved his BB:K. Those improvements helped him hit .285 and post a .369 OBP after the All-Star break, but that came at the expense of even more power. He also struggled quite a bit against southpaws in year two, as his OPS dipped from .903 to just .681. Despite the overall decline, Bellinger is still a versatile fantasy option, able to play two positions and contribute across the board. The increases in the second half suggest some improvement in plate selection, and there’s plenty of reason to expect Bellinger -- who won’t turn 24 until July 13 -- to bounce back if he can find his power stroke again.
CLE (SS)
G
150
AB
614
AVG
.285
HR
33
RBI
86
SB
17
R
105
Lindor has three full seasons in the majors, and has shown linear statistical improvement in nearly every category. In each of the past three seasons, his home runs, slugging percentage and RBI have increased year over year while his runs went from repeating to surging last season. He has shown a willingness to take his walks (9.4 BB%) and he puts bat to ball with consistency (14.4 K%). Lindor, teammate Jose Ramirez, Robinson Cano, and Nolan Arenado are the only players in recent seasons with at least 35 home runs and a strikeout rate no higher than 15%. His stolen-base attempts jumped from 18 in 2017 to 35 last season, but his success rate took a dive as he was caught 10 times, which may limit his ability to join Ramirez in the 30-30 club. The tools are all here for another outstanding offensive season even if continuing the statistical linear growth looks rather impossible given the level he has already achieved before his 25th birthday.
Lindor has three full seasons in the majors, and has shown linear statistical improvement in nearly every category. In each of the past three seasons, his home runs, slugging percentage and RBI have increased year over year while his runs went from repeating to surging last season. He has shown a willingness to take his walks (9.4 BB%) and he puts bat to ball with consistency (14.4 K%). Lindor, teammate Jose Ramirez, Robinson Cano, and Nolan Arenado are the only players in recent seasons with at least 35 home runs and a strikeout rate no higher than 15%. His stolen-base attempts jumped from 18 in 2017 to 35 last season, but his success rate took a dive as he was caught 10 times, which may limit his ability to join Ramirez in the 30-30 club. The tools are all here for another outstanding offensive season even if continuing the statistical linear growth looks rather impossible given the level he has already achieved before his 25th birthday.
HOU (2B)
IL-10
G
151
AB
571
AVG
.331
HR
19
RBI
74
SB
25
R
97
Altuve played most of the season with a knee injury that was diagnosed as an avulsion fracture after the Astros were knocked out by Boston. He required surgery in late October. Despite the bum wheel, Altuve remained an above-average offensive player albeit not at the same level of the prior few seasons. The bad wheel goes a long way in explaining where the steals went, though the Astros as a team attempted significantly fewer stolen bases. It is an exercise in futility to pick apart his underlying 2018 numbers because he is still an elite hitter. Altuve's ability to hit 20-plus homers is contingent upon him playing 150-plus games and enjoying the Crawford Boxes, but he should be able to resume his overall run production as he is still in his peak years. You'll just have to forgive him for attempting to play through his knee troubles and go back to the well again as there will not be much of a discount at all.
Altuve played most of the season with a knee injury that was diagnosed as an avulsion fracture after the Astros were knocked out by Boston. He required surgery in late October. Despite the bum wheel, Altuve remained an above-average offensive player albeit not at the same level of the prior few seasons. The bad wheel goes a long way in explaining where the steals went, though the Astros as a team attempted significantly fewer stolen bases. It is an exercise in futility to pick apart his underlying 2018 numbers because he is still an elite hitter. Altuve's ability to hit 20-plus homers is contingent upon him playing 150-plus games and enjoying the Crawford Boxes, but he should be able to resume his overall run production as he is still in his peak years. You'll just have to forgive him for attempting to play through his knee troubles and go back to the well again as there will not be much of a discount at all.
PHI (OF)
G
145
AB
522
AVG
.270
HR
33
RBI
99
SB
11
R
108
Harper overcame a down first half and the specter of his looming free agency to rank as a top-20 hitter last season, at least in terms of wRC+ (135). Fantasy managers were probably hoping for better ROI from Harper, despite the outfielder finishing with his most home runs, RBI and runs since his 2015 MVP campaign. Rather than his counting-stats production, it was Harper's .249 AVG that was the most significant drag on his value. Perhaps more than his landing spot and the perception of him being an injury-prone player, Harper's volatility in batting average is what makes forecasting him most challenging. Harper raised his hard-hit percentage last season and saw only a marginal dip in barrel rate, yet still noticed a 67-point crash in BABIP from 2017. Now that Harper has hit under .250 and above .315 two times apiece in the last four years, those nabbing him early in drafts should plan to support him with players with steadier batting profiles.
Harper overcame a down first half and the specter of his looming free agency to rank as a top-20 hitter last season, at least in terms of wRC+ (135). Fantasy managers were probably hoping for better ROI from Harper, despite the outfielder finishing with his most home runs, RBI and runs since his 2015 MVP campaign. Rather than his counting-stats production, it was Harper's .249 AVG that was the most significant drag on his value. Perhaps more than his landing spot and the perception of him being an injury-prone player, Harper's volatility in batting average is what makes forecasting him most challenging. Harper raised his hard-hit percentage last season and saw only a marginal dip in barrel rate, yet still noticed a 67-point crash in BABIP from 2017. Now that Harper has hit under .250 and above .315 two times apiece in the last four years, those nabbing him early in drafts should plan to support him with players with steadier batting profiles.
The rest of our Fantasy Baseball Outlooks & Rankings are reserved for RotoWire subscribers.
WAS (P)
GS
33
IP
215.0
W
18
SV
0
K
286
ERA
2.60
WHIP
0.921
Scherzer has struck out 29% of the hitters he has faced throughout his career. If we took that rate and compared it to his annual strikeout rates over the past four seasons, it would rank lowest. Scherzer has increased his strikeout rate in each of the past five seasons as he shoves his way into his mid-30s. Last year marked the third consecutive season in which he held opposing hitters to a sub-.200 average and the fourth consecutive season in which he finished with a sub-3.00 ERA. He has six consecutive seasons of 200 or more innings pitched and 10 consecutive seasons of 30 or more starts. There are not enough superlatives to discuss his production and there is little debate as to whether he should be taken in the first round of drafts. The only debate is how high to take this staff anchor and how many rounds you can then forego drafting a pitcher. This is the new king of the mountain for fantasy pitchers and he is worth every penny.
Scherzer has struck out 29% of the hitters he has faced throughout his career. If we took that rate and compared it to his annual strikeout rates over the past four seasons, it would rank lowest. Scherzer has increased his strikeout rate in each of the past five seasons as he shoves his way into his mid-30s. Last year marked the third consecutive season in which he held opposing hitters to a sub-.200 average and the fourth consecutive season in which he finished with a sub-3.00 ERA. He has six consecutive seasons of 200 or more innings pitched and 10 consecutive seasons of 30 or more starts. There are not enough superlatives to discuss his production and there is little debate as to whether he should be taken in the first round of drafts. The only debate is how high to take this staff anchor and how many rounds you can then forego drafting a pitcher. This is the new king of the mountain for fantasy pitchers and he is worth every penny.
HOU (P)
GS
33
IP
207.0
W
15
SV
0
K
261
ERA
3.00
WHIP
1.039
Though he was denied a second Cy Young, the case can be made that Verlander submitted a career year. His walk and strikeout rates were both personal bests, while his ERA and WHIP were roughly on par with those he posted in his 2011 AL MVP campaign. If there’s a nit to pick, it’s that Verlander’s elevated flyball rate yielded 25-plus homers for the third straight season, but his stinginess with free passes limited the impact of the long balls. As his age-36 season approaches, Verlander has given no reason to doubt him keeping his spot in the top echelon of starters. His average velocity is actually up from his latter years with Detroit, and he had positive values for each of his three most common offerings in 2018 while limiting hitters to a 71.6% contact rate, which was nearly seven points below his career mark. Once again backed by a top-notch supporting cast, Verlander projects as a four-category standout even if his peripherals fade a bit.
Though he was denied a second Cy Young, the case can be made that Verlander submitted a career year. His walk and strikeout rates were both personal bests, while his ERA and WHIP were roughly on par with those he posted in his 2011 AL MVP campaign. If there’s a nit to pick, it’s that Verlander’s elevated flyball rate yielded 25-plus homers for the third straight season, but his stinginess with free passes limited the impact of the long balls. As his age-36 season approaches, Verlander has given no reason to doubt him keeping his spot in the top echelon of starters. His average velocity is actually up from his latter years with Detroit, and he had positive values for each of his three most common offerings in 2018 while limiting hitters to a 71.6% contact rate, which was nearly seven points below his career mark. Once again backed by a top-notch supporting cast, Verlander projects as a four-category standout even if his peripherals fade a bit.
HOU (P)
GS
31
IP
199.0
W
16
SV
0
K
235
ERA
2.94
WHIP
1.045
The smart money was on Cole thriving in Houston, despite a move to the American League. However, no one expected such a dominating campaign. Not only was there a latent park upgrade, but the Astros identified a flaw in Cole's pitch mix and increased his curveball usage. The result was a cascade effect as Cole's entire arsenal enjoyed an upgrade. He posted a career-best 14.1 SwStr% without sacrificing much control. The result was his third 200-inning season in the last four years (just five others have accomplished the feat in each of the past two seasons). Cole's success was driven by a huge improvement versus left-handed batters against whom the increased use of his curveball was paramount. Cole will be hard-pressed to repeat this level of success without the platoon edge, so expect regression. Still, his durability renders Cole one of the few workhorses in an era of five and fly. It'll cost, but Cole should remain one of the few elite starters in the game.
The smart money was on Cole thriving in Houston, despite a move to the American League. However, no one expected such a dominating campaign. Not only was there a latent park upgrade, but the Astros identified a flaw in Cole's pitch mix and increased his curveball usage. The result was a cascade effect as Cole's entire arsenal enjoyed an upgrade. He posted a career-best 14.1 SwStr% without sacrificing much control. The result was his third 200-inning season in the last four years (just five others have accomplished the feat in each of the past two seasons). Cole's success was driven by a huge improvement versus left-handed batters against whom the increased use of his curveball was paramount. Cole will be hard-pressed to repeat this level of success without the platoon edge, so expect regression. Still, his durability renders Cole one of the few workhorses in an era of five and fly. It'll cost, but Cole should remain one of the few elite starters in the game.
TB (P)
GS
32
IP
188.0
W
15
SV
0
K
200
ERA
2.54
WHIP
1.080
James Clear, in his book Atomic Habits, references The Plateau of Latent Potential. We expect all progress to be linear, and that it will come quickly. In reality, the results get delayed and we enter into the valley of disappointment. That aptly describes Snell from mid-2016 through the end of July 2017. For all the talent, the results were not there. Wise owners noticed changes Snell made over the final six weeks of the season and bought back in on Snell last season and were rewarded with a Cy Young-winning effort. Snell made outstanding gains across the board, both statistically and in his approach to the game, specifically his ability to command his pitches and throw non-fastballs for strikes early to force batters to chase pseudo-strikes later in the count. The ERA will regress, and the wins will come down, but Snell is now a staff ace.
James Clear, in his book Atomic Habits, references The Plateau of Latent Potential. We expect all progress to be linear, and that it will come quickly. In reality, the results get delayed and we enter into the valley of disappointment. That aptly describes Snell from mid-2016 through the end of July 2017. For all the talent, the results were not there. Wise owners noticed changes Snell made over the final six weeks of the season and bought back in on Snell last season and were rewarded with a Cy Young-winning effort. Snell made outstanding gains across the board, both statistically and in his approach to the game, specifically his ability to command his pitches and throw non-fastballs for strikes early to force batters to chase pseudo-strikes later in the count. The ERA will regress, and the wins will come down, but Snell is now a staff ace.
BOS (P)
GS
29
IP
178.0
W
13
SV
0
K
235
ERA
3.13
WHIP
1.073
Sale somehow raised the bar in 2018, with career-best marks in ERA (2.11) and WHIP (0.86) buoyed by outstanding indicators, namely a 32.9 K-BB% and 0.63 HR/9 that ranked first and fourth, respectively, among all hurlers who tossed 150-plus frames. His bid for his first Cy Young lost momentum, however, when shoulder inflammation set in, requiring two separate DL stints and limiting Sale to 29 second-half innings. He returned in time for Boston's World Series run, but clearly wasn't in top form. His average fastball velocity sat at 93.2 mph from September onward, per Brooks Baseball, nearly five ticks below its mid-summer peak. The lefty fortunately avoided offseason shoulder surgery, leaving the team optimistic he'll be back to full strength after extended rest and rehab. Sale's health still warrants a check-in during spring training, but if reports surrounding the southpaw are positive, he can be drafted with confidence as a fantasy staff ace.
Sale somehow raised the bar in 2018, with career-best marks in ERA (2.11) and WHIP (0.86) buoyed by outstanding indicators, namely a 32.9 K-BB% and 0.63 HR/9 that ranked first and fourth, respectively, among all hurlers who tossed 150-plus frames. His bid for his first Cy Young lost momentum, however, when shoulder inflammation set in, requiring two separate DL stints and limiting Sale to 29 second-half innings. He returned in time for Boston's World Series run, but clearly wasn't in top form. His average fastball velocity sat at 93.2 mph from September onward, per Brooks Baseball, nearly five ticks below its mid-summer peak. The lefty fortunately avoided offseason shoulder surgery, leaving the team optimistic he'll be back to full strength after extended rest and rehab. Sale's health still warrants a check-in during spring training, but if reports surrounding the southpaw are positive, he can be drafted with confidence as a fantasy staff ace.
NYM (P)
GS
30
IP
188.0
W
14
SV
0
K
219
ERA
2.82
WHIP
1.138
If deGrom had not won the NL Cy Young Award, it would have been a damn shame. DeGrom shoved all season and pitched with a laughable amount of run support. His average pitch velocities went up across the board, and combined with precision command, explain how he was able to dominate hitters in nearly every single outing of 2018. DeGrom had 21 starts in which he allowed one or zero runs and he had nine wins to show for his efforts in those outings. He had just one game in which he allowed more than three runs. He should have won 25, but won 10. He has strikeouts and ratios in spades, and the Mets' additions to the lineup and the bullpen should lead to more wins in 2019.
If deGrom had not won the NL Cy Young Award, it would have been a damn shame. DeGrom shoved all season and pitched with a laughable amount of run support. His average pitch velocities went up across the board, and combined with precision command, explain how he was able to dominate hitters in nearly every single outing of 2018. DeGrom had 21 starts in which he allowed one or zero runs and he had nine wins to show for his efforts in those outings. He had just one game in which he allowed more than three runs. He should have won 25, but won 10. He has strikeouts and ratios in spades, and the Mets' additions to the lineup and the bullpen should lead to more wins in 2019.
CLE (P)
GS
32
IP
199.0
W
15
SV
0
K
222
ERA
3.03
WHIP
1.171
Bauer may prepare in a bit of a quirky way, but his commitment to his craft paid off in a big way in 2018, as he was one of the best pitchers in the league through four months. A stress fracture in his lower leg cost him almost six weeks, with him returning in an abbreviated role to close out September. He finished second in the majors, behind only Jacob deGrom, with a 2.44 FIP and finished in the top seven in K% (30.8) and K-BB% (22.9). His 95-mph fastball is a plus pitch, but what separates Bauer from most other starters is that he has four more plus pitches (slider, curveball, changeup, cutter) in his bag of tricks, so hitters are almost always at his mercy. Even with the missed time, he finished ninth among starting pitchers in earned auction dollars ($22), so if the skills growth is real and he is able to top 200 innings for the first time in his career, he could finish as a top-five fantasy starter in 2019.
Bauer may prepare in a bit of a quirky way, but his commitment to his craft paid off in a big way in 2018, as he was one of the best pitchers in the league through four months. A stress fracture in his lower leg cost him almost six weeks, with him returning in an abbreviated role to close out September. He finished second in the majors, behind only Jacob deGrom, with a 2.44 FIP and finished in the top seven in K% (30.8) and K-BB% (22.9). His 95-mph fastball is a plus pitch, but what separates Bauer from most other starters is that he has four more plus pitches (slider, curveball, changeup, cutter) in his bag of tricks, so hitters are almost always at his mercy. Even with the missed time, he finished ninth among starting pitchers in earned auction dollars ($22), so if the skills growth is real and he is able to top 200 innings for the first time in his career, he could finish as a top-five fantasy starter in 2019.
ARI (P)
GS
32
IP
198.0
W
14
SV
0
K
194
ERA
3.32
WHIP
1.106
Note to self: when Greinke exhibits reduced velocity, ignore it. It's become a rite of spring. Greinke struggles in the exhibition season only to kick things into gear when the games count. One of these years, Father Time will catch up, but that keeps his cost of acquisition low for those willing to take the chance for one more season. The veteran has topped 200 innings in four of the last five seasons. After struggling in the desert his first year with the Diamondbacks, he's posted nearly identical seasons. His ERA estimators portended a little higher than his 3.21 mark from 2018, but not much. Skills-wise, Greinke posted strikeout and walk rates in line with recent campaigns. There is undeniable age-related risk, as Greinke has amassed a ton of innings and only averages 90 mph with his fastball. However, he is being drafted as an SP2 in mixed leagues after finishing in the top 12 among starting pitchers in all but one season since 2014.
Note to self: when Greinke exhibits reduced velocity, ignore it. It's become a rite of spring. Greinke struggles in the exhibition season only to kick things into gear when the games count. One of these years, Father Time will catch up, but that keeps his cost of acquisition low for those willing to take the chance for one more season. The veteran has topped 200 innings in four of the last five seasons. After struggling in the desert his first year with the Diamondbacks, he's posted nearly identical seasons. His ERA estimators portended a little higher than his 3.21 mark from 2018, but not much. Skills-wise, Greinke posted strikeout and walk rates in line with recent campaigns. There is undeniable age-related risk, as Greinke has amassed a ton of innings and only averages 90 mph with his fastball. However, he is being drafted as an SP2 in mixed leagues after finishing in the top 12 among starting pitchers in all but one season since 2014.
PHI (P)
GS
33
IP
199.0
W
14
SV
0
K
211
ERA
3.21
WHIP
1.166
Nola reached new heights in 2018, putting himself in the Cy Young conversation for the first time during his fourth big-league season. He held onto gains in his fastball velocity and reached career highs in starts (33), innings (212.1) and strikeout rate (27%) while recording a career-low 2.37 ERA. Regression will likely come for Nola to a certain extent, as he beat his FIP by 64 points despite the Phillies having one of the worst defenses in recent memory. He doesn't have a history of outperforming his peripherals (despite the sort of command-driven profile often associated with that outcome), so his low ERA can be attributed at least in part to a .251 BABIP and an 82.5% strand rate. Still, improvements in the Phillies' defense could offset some of the inevitable regression, and he has plenty of room to fall back and still be a very valuable pitcher.
Nola reached new heights in 2018, putting himself in the Cy Young conversation for the first time during his fourth big-league season. He held onto gains in his fastball velocity and reached career highs in starts (33), innings (212.1) and strikeout rate (27%) while recording a career-low 2.37 ERA. Regression will likely come for Nola to a certain extent, as he beat his FIP by 64 points despite the Phillies having one of the worst defenses in recent memory. He doesn't have a history of outperforming his peripherals (despite the sort of command-driven profile often associated with that outcome), so his low ERA can be attributed at least in part to a .251 BABIP and an 82.5% strand rate. Still, improvements in the Phillies' defense could offset some of the inevitable regression, and he has plenty of room to fall back and still be a very valuable pitcher.
LAD (P)
GS
31
IP
172.0
W
11
SV
0
K
184
ERA
3.03
WHIP
1.023
Buehler was a blast to watch pitch as a rookie in 2018 as he showcased an electric fastball along with two different breaking balls. It was easy to see why he was a first-round draft pick and it is going to be hard to restrain ourselves this draft season in chasing him for our rosters. However, that pursuit should be exercised with an amount of caution. Buehler already has one Tommy John surgery under his belt, which limited the amount of pitching he could do in the minor leagues. Those restrictions were not present last season as Buehler threw a total of 173 innings, nearly doubling his total from 2017. At age 24, to have a workload jump of that size is a risk to keep in mind if you decide you are all in on rostering the young flamethrower. Everything else we want to see in a young future ace is here (21.1% K-BB, 50% GB%), and the team context is certainly favorable.
Buehler was a blast to watch pitch as a rookie in 2018 as he showcased an electric fastball along with two different breaking balls. It was easy to see why he was a first-round draft pick and it is going to be hard to restrain ourselves this draft season in chasing him for our rosters. However, that pursuit should be exercised with an amount of caution. Buehler already has one Tommy John surgery under his belt, which limited the amount of pitching he could do in the minor leagues. Those restrictions were not present last season as Buehler threw a total of 173 innings, nearly doubling his total from 2017. At age 24, to have a workload jump of that size is a risk to keep in mind if you decide you are all in on rostering the young flamethrower. Everything else we want to see in a young future ace is here (21.1% K-BB, 50% GB%), and the team context is certainly favorable.
NYM (P)
GS
0
IP
67.0
W
3
SV
41
K
106
ERA
2.55
WHIP
0.970
Diaz ended 2018 as the top closer and looks to be one of the first off the board in 2019 after an offseason trade to the Mets. Here's the thing: amassing another 61 save chances with 57 conversions is a long shot. Last year, Diaz tied for the second-most saves in history. Even with comparable skills, 15-20 fewer is a fair expectation. Speaking of skills, they're elite. His 18.9 SwStr% was bested by only Josh Hader, and just barely at that. His K-BB% was tops in the league. Diaz throws a 98-mph fastball almost two-thirds of the time, complemented by a 90-mph slider. There's really nothing to point to in terms of luck as Diaz's BABIP, HR/FB and LOB% were all within expected ranges. The skills, hence strikeouts and ratios, are real and repeatable and thus worthy of chasing aggressively. Just don't count on another 50-save season.
Diaz ended 2018 as the top closer and looks to be one of the first off the board in 2019 after an offseason trade to the Mets. Here's the thing: amassing another 61 save chances with 57 conversions is a long shot. Last year, Diaz tied for the second-most saves in history. Even with comparable skills, 15-20 fewer is a fair expectation. Speaking of skills, they're elite. His 18.9 SwStr% was bested by only Josh Hader, and just barely at that. His K-BB% was tops in the league. Diaz throws a 98-mph fastball almost two-thirds of the time, complemented by a 90-mph slider. There's really nothing to point to in terms of luck as Diaz's BABIP, HR/FB and LOB% were all within expected ranges. The skills, hence strikeouts and ratios, are real and repeatable and thus worthy of chasing aggressively. Just don't count on another 50-save season.
SD (P)
GS
0
IP
62.0
W
3
SV
42
K
91
ERA
2.03
WHIP
0.984
Yates was already on his way to a career year when the Padres dealt Brad Hand at the trade deadline, and he deservedly took over as the closer after that. He was not as effective after the All-Star break as he was before, but still set career bests across the board. A 31-year-old righty, Yates relies on a 95-mph fastball to get ahead in the count and gets whiffs with his splitter and hard slider. He will open 2019 in the same role he finished last year, but could wind up on the trade block himself if the Padres can't keep pace in the NL West, given his age and the fact he is only under team control for two more seasons. Chances are, he would not work as a closer if he were dealt to a contender. He was getting drafted as a top-15 reliever on average in December, with drafters putting a lot of faith in a player with just 14 career saves. That aggression is somewhat understandable given his dominance last season and the general lack of trustworthy closers.
Yates was already on his way to a career year when the Padres dealt Brad Hand at the trade deadline, and he deservedly took over as the closer after that. He was not as effective after the All-Star break as he was before, but still set career bests across the board. A 31-year-old righty, Yates relies on a 95-mph fastball to get ahead in the count and gets whiffs with his splitter and hard slider. He will open 2019 in the same role he finished last year, but could wind up on the trade block himself if the Padres can't keep pace in the NL West, given his age and the fact he is only under team control for two more seasons. Chances are, he would not work as a closer if he were dealt to a contender. He was getting drafted as a top-15 reliever on average in December, with drafters putting a lot of faith in a player with just 14 career saves. That aggression is somewhat understandable given his dominance last season and the general lack of trustworthy closers.
OAK (P)
GS
0
IP
77.0
W
4
SV
38
K
86
ERA
1.99
WHIP
1.065
Treinen dug in as the Athletics' closer in 2018 and ended up as one of the most valuable relievers in fantasy. His 18.0 swinging-strike percentage ranked third among qualified relievers. He molded a cutter to conquer lefty batters, completing the missing piece of his skill set. Still, it's impossible to bank on him returning as much earned value in 2019; nine wins enhanced his 2018 value, he had an 85.9 left-on-base percentage and a .230 opponents BABIP. The latter two can fluctuate greatly given relievers' small sample sizes. However, even if he gives back some of that, Treinen should find a soft landing. He has a standout sinker, his control has improved greatly and he posted the fourth-lowest barrels-per-PA rate in the majors (min. 150 batted-ball events). After a dominant season in which he built up a long leash in the role, Treinen has a case to be the first closer off the board in 2019 drafts.
Treinen dug in as the Athletics' closer in 2018 and ended up as one of the most valuable relievers in fantasy. His 18.0 swinging-strike percentage ranked third among qualified relievers. He molded a cutter to conquer lefty batters, completing the missing piece of his skill set. Still, it's impossible to bank on him returning as much earned value in 2019; nine wins enhanced his 2018 value, he had an 85.9 left-on-base percentage and a .230 opponents BABIP. The latter two can fluctuate greatly given relievers' small sample sizes. However, even if he gives back some of that, Treinen should find a soft landing. He has a standout sinker, his control has improved greatly and he posted the fourth-lowest barrels-per-PA rate in the majors (min. 150 batted-ball events). After a dominant season in which he built up a long leash in the role, Treinen has a case to be the first closer off the board in 2019 drafts.
LAD (P)
GS
0
IP
69.0
W
3
SV
37
K
94
ERA
2.35
WHIP
0.884
Jansen entered 2018 as the undisputed top closer, but immediately tested that distinction. With his cutter down a few ticks coming out of the spring, Jansen blew two saves in his first seven outings. He regained some heat thereafter and converted 37 of his next 39 chances, but didn't quite resemble the relief ace of old. Most notably, Jansen's strikeout and walk rates moved steeply in the wrong directions, with his 22.5 K-BB% amounting to a 13-point decline from any of the previous three years. That contributed to Jansen finishing with an ERA above 3.00 for the first time ever, a mark that likely would have been worse if not for a .234 BABIP (career .268). The heart issue that cost Jansen time in 2011 and 2012 also popped up last August, though he's hopeful an offseason procedure remedied the matter. Still, Jansen's place among the top-tier closers no longer seems certain, despite the 2018 model being a fringe top-five option.
Jansen entered 2018 as the undisputed top closer, but immediately tested that distinction. With his cutter down a few ticks coming out of the spring, Jansen blew two saves in his first seven outings. He regained some heat thereafter and converted 37 of his next 39 chances, but didn't quite resemble the relief ace of old. Most notably, Jansen's strikeout and walk rates moved steeply in the wrong directions, with his 22.5 K-BB% amounting to a 13-point decline from any of the previous three years. That contributed to Jansen finishing with an ERA above 3.00 for the first time ever, a mark that likely would have been worse if not for a .234 BABIP (career .268). The heart issue that cost Jansen time in 2011 and 2012 also popped up last August, though he's hopeful an offseason procedure remedied the matter. Still, Jansen's place among the top-tier closers no longer seems certain, despite the 2018 model being a fringe top-five option.
CLE (P)
GS
0
IP
78.0
W
3
SV
39
K
106
ERA
2.54
WHIP
1.051
Hand began the season as the Padres' closer, posting a tidy 3.05 ERA and 1.08 WHIP with 24 saves before the All-Star break. He was then traded to Cleveland where he shared ninth-inning duties until mid-September when he became the Tribe's primary option. After posting a 2.33 ERA and 1.15 WHIP with eight saves and six holds for the Indians, Hand is ticketed to enter 2019 as the club's closer. The southpaw handles RHB better than most right-handed closers while dominating LHB as evidenced by a .661 OPS facing RHB and a .505 OPS versus LHB since 2016. If Hand has a flaw, it's his 9.3% walk rate along with a high 15.0% HR/FB the past two seasons. However, when you fan over 30% of batters faced, you can get away with a couple more walks and homers. The Indians profile as a team that should afford an above-average number of chances and Hand has no real competition for the job.
Hand began the season as the Padres' closer, posting a tidy 3.05 ERA and 1.08 WHIP with 24 saves before the All-Star break. He was then traded to Cleveland where he shared ninth-inning duties until mid-September when he became the Tribe's primary option. After posting a 2.33 ERA and 1.15 WHIP with eight saves and six holds for the Indians, Hand is ticketed to enter 2019 as the club's closer. The southpaw handles RHB better than most right-handed closers while dominating LHB as evidenced by a .661 OPS facing RHB and a .505 OPS versus LHB since 2016. If Hand has a flaw, it's his 9.3% walk rate along with a high 15.0% HR/FB the past two seasons. However, when you fan over 30% of batters faced, you can get away with a couple more walks and homers. The Indians profile as a team that should afford an above-average number of chances and Hand has no real competition for the job.
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PHI (C)
G
135
AB
501
AVG
.289
HR
25
RBI
88
SB
5
R
81
Realmuto was bunched up with the likes of Willson Contreras and Buster Posey in that second tier of catchers last draft season. Now he's in the top tier of the catcher pool along with Gary Sanchez. In his age-27 season, Realmuto shaved eight percentage points off his groundball rate, adding more line drives and flyballs while making more consistent hard contact (38.5%, up from 33.3%). The predictable result was an uptick in rate power, with Realmuto adding 35 points to his ISO and 33 points to his SLG. He didn't run as much as in past years, but in the end, Realmuto was still pretty easily the most valuable player at the position in both real life and fantasy. Sanchez should bounce back after a miserable season, but Realmuto is the safer investment given his steady plate skills (19.6 K%, 7.2 BB%). Realmuto's outlook brightened with a February trade to Philadelphia.
Realmuto was bunched up with the likes of Willson Contreras and Buster Posey in that second tier of catchers last draft season. Now he's in the top tier of the catcher pool along with Gary Sanchez. In his age-27 season, Realmuto shaved eight percentage points off his groundball rate, adding more line drives and flyballs while making more consistent hard contact (38.5%, up from 33.3%). The predictable result was an uptick in rate power, with Realmuto adding 35 points to his ISO and 33 points to his SLG. He didn't run as much as in past years, but in the end, Realmuto was still pretty easily the most valuable player at the position in both real life and fantasy. Sanchez should bounce back after a miserable season, but Realmuto is the safer investment given his steady plate skills (19.6 K%, 7.2 BB%). Realmuto's outlook brightened with a February trade to Philadelphia.
NYY (C)
G
113
AB
422
AVG
.273
HR
25
RBI
76
SB
0
R
74
Raise your hand if you were surprised Sanchez has had a balky left shoulder since 2017. He finally underwent a debridement procedure in November to clean up the tissue causing irritation. There's no telling how this affected Sanchez last season, but his .186/.291/.406 line was shocking in light of what he did the previous two campaigns. Sanchez's defense also suffered with a league-leading 18 passed balls, despite only 76 games behind the dish. He had two DL stints after straining then aggravating his groin. Aside from the likely impact of the assorted injuries, Sanchez hit into some seriously bad luck. His Statcast data, specifically exit velocity and barrels, were nearly identical to 2017, with decidedly poorer results. His .304 wOBA was nearly 40 points below his expected .343 mark. There's some added injury risk, but Sanchez is arguably the same guy he was this time last year when he was the consensus top backstop, a top-40 overall player.
Raise your hand if you were surprised Sanchez has had a balky left shoulder since 2017. He finally underwent a debridement procedure in November to clean up the tissue causing irritation. There's no telling how this affected Sanchez last season, but his .186/.291/.406 line was shocking in light of what he did the previous two campaigns. Sanchez's defense also suffered with a league-leading 18 passed balls, despite only 76 games behind the dish. He had two DL stints after straining then aggravating his groin. Aside from the likely impact of the assorted injuries, Sanchez hit into some seriously bad luck. His Statcast data, specifically exit velocity and barrels, were nearly identical to 2017, with decidedly poorer results. His .304 wOBA was nearly 40 points below his expected .343 mark. There's some added injury risk, but Sanchez is arguably the same guy he was this time last year when he was the consensus top backstop, a top-40 overall player.
MIL (C)
G
135
AB
419
AVG
.246
HR
21
RBI
70
SB
1
R
61
For the second straight year, Grandal lost time to Austin Barnes down the stretch and into the playoffs, despite being one of the most productive backstops during the regular season. He won't have to worry about that this season after inking a one-year, $18.25 million deal with the Brewers. Grandal has cracked 73 homers the last three seasons, second most among all catchers, and his new home park could help him top his career high of 27 from 2016. Grandal's 23.9 K% and 18.8 Oppo% cap his average in standard leagues, but his 13.9 BB% pushes him up draft boards in OBP and points formats. Despite not being trusted in the playoffs, Grandal's glove grades out positive by most metrics (nine defensive runs saved). He's also among the most durable at the position, averaging 128 games the past five seasons, including a career-best 140 last year. Milwaukee is a dream landing spot, as it ensures a heavy workload with a park upgrade.
For the second straight year, Grandal lost time to Austin Barnes down the stretch and into the playoffs, despite being one of the most productive backstops during the regular season. He won't have to worry about that this season after inking a one-year, $18.25 million deal with the Brewers. Grandal has cracked 73 homers the last three seasons, second most among all catchers, and his new home park could help him top his career high of 27 from 2016. Grandal's 23.9 K% and 18.8 Oppo% cap his average in standard leagues, but his 13.9 BB% pushes him up draft boards in OBP and points formats. Despite not being trusted in the playoffs, Grandal's glove grades out positive by most metrics (nine defensive runs saved). He's also among the most durable at the position, averaging 128 games the past five seasons, including a career-best 140 last year. Milwaukee is a dream landing spot, as it ensures a heavy workload with a park upgrade.
SF (C)
G
133
AB
471
AVG
.299
HR
10
RBI
58
SB
2
R
63
Posey was again one of the sport’s most disciplined hitters in 2018 and trailed only Wilson Ramos in batting average among all catchers with at least 400 plate appearances, but the 31-year-old was a huge disappointment for those that paid top dollar for him. The reasons behind Posey’s downfall weren’t too surprising. He played only 105 games before getting shut down for good after late-August hip surgery and saw his power tail off when he was healthy, continuing a trend that’s persisted since 2015. More troubling was the fact that the power loss was even more acute than usual, as his ISO plummeted from .142 in 2017 all the way to .098, limiting him to just five homers. With Posey's status for Opening Day in peril and his home-run output unlikely to dramatically recover, he's not a comfortable top-five draft pick among fantasy catchers, even though his name brand will probably keep him in that range in more casual leagues.
Posey was again one of the sport’s most disciplined hitters in 2018 and trailed only Wilson Ramos in batting average among all catchers with at least 400 plate appearances, but the 31-year-old was a huge disappointment for those that paid top dollar for him. The reasons behind Posey’s downfall weren’t too surprising. He played only 105 games before getting shut down for good after late-August hip surgery and saw his power tail off when he was healthy, continuing a trend that’s persisted since 2015. More troubling was the fact that the power loss was even more acute than usual, as his ISO plummeted from .142 in 2017 all the way to .098, limiting him to just five homers. With Posey's status for Opening Day in peril and his home-run output unlikely to dramatically recover, he's not a comfortable top-five draft pick among fantasy catchers, even though his name brand will probably keep him in that range in more casual leagues.
NYM (C)
G
115
AB
401
AVG
.287
HR
17
RBI
68
SB
0
R
44
Ramos was one of fantasy's top catchers in 2018, slashing .297/.346/.488 with the Rays and .337/.396/.483 with Philadelphia after a trade. He cleared a .300 batting average for the second time in three seasons while delivering a 147 wRC+ against lefties and ridiculous opposite-field numbers: seven homers, .482 average and .267 wRC+ -- the fourth-best mark in the league. His power is among the best at the position (outside of Gary Sanchez). While Ramos has posted at least a 52% groundball rate each season since 2012, he's reached 20% HR/FB in each of the past three. When Ramos lifts it, it travels. Even if he gives back batting average for more power, or vice versa, Ramos should boast the overall production to climb toward the top of the catcher rankings again. The 31-year-old landed with the Mets in free agency.
Ramos was one of fantasy's top catchers in 2018, slashing .297/.346/.488 with the Rays and .337/.396/.483 with Philadelphia after a trade. He cleared a .300 batting average for the second time in three seasons while delivering a 147 wRC+ against lefties and ridiculous opposite-field numbers: seven homers, .482 average and .267 wRC+ -- the fourth-best mark in the league. His power is among the best at the position (outside of Gary Sanchez). While Ramos has posted at least a 52% groundball rate each season since 2012, he's reached 20% HR/FB in each of the past three. When Ramos lifts it, it travels. Even if he gives back batting average for more power, or vice versa, Ramos should boast the overall production to climb toward the top of the catcher rankings again. The 31-year-old landed with the Mets in free agency.
STL (C)
G
127
AB
473
AVG
.262
HR
14
RBI
69
SB
2
R
56
League-wide power was down in 2018 from 2017, but Molina did not get that memo as he upped his home-run total by two despite 40 fewer plate appearances. The 38 homers Molina has hit over the past two seasons are seven more than he hit over the previous four seasons. Say what you will about launch angle, but Molina turned a 9% average launch angle in 2016 into a 15% average over the past two years to the betterment of his hard contact and home-run totals. Beggars cannot be choosers, especially when it comes to catcher, but it would be nice if Molina reached base more frequently and if his numbers were not so dependent upon his ability to hit the long ball. His batting average has decreased in each of the past two seasons as he gets closer to 40, but that's nitpicking at this point. He has two more years on his latest contract and should continue to compile the stats with a large chunk of playing time.
League-wide power was down in 2018 from 2017, but Molina did not get that memo as he upped his home-run total by two despite 40 fewer plate appearances. The 38 homers Molina has hit over the past two seasons are seven more than he hit over the previous four seasons. Say what you will about launch angle, but Molina turned a 9% average launch angle in 2016 into a 15% average over the past two years to the betterment of his hard contact and home-run totals. Beggars cannot be choosers, especially when it comes to catcher, but it would be nice if Molina reached base more frequently and if his numbers were not so dependent upon his ability to hit the long ball. His batting average has decreased in each of the past two seasons as he gets closer to 40, but that's nitpicking at this point. He has two more years on his latest contract and should continue to compile the stats with a large chunk of playing time.
CHC (C)
G
132
AB
441
AVG
.261
HR
15
RBI
63
SB
3
R
51
Contreras was one of many disappointing catchers as 2018 was an off year for the position. His primary downfall was a precipitous drop in power, fueled by a plummeting HR/FB mark. Contreras hits over half of his batted balls on the ground so he needs to maintain a lofty HR/FB level to generate power. While some pullback from 2017's 26% was likely, falling to a meek 9% was a shock, though supported by a drop in hard-hit rate in a year where the average rate increased. Contreras' plate skills held steady as did his BABIP, so his batting average drop was due to homers converted to outs. Contreras will be 27 years old this season, so chances are 2018 was more fluke than fact. Expect a power rebound, though capped by a 30% flyball rate. Since he'll remain a bell cow behind the dish, hitting in the meat of the Cubs' order, Contreras is a strong candidate to return top-five backstop status, likely at a discounted price.
Contreras was one of many disappointing catchers as 2018 was an off year for the position. His primary downfall was a precipitous drop in power, fueled by a plummeting HR/FB mark. Contreras hits over half of his batted balls on the ground so he needs to maintain a lofty HR/FB level to generate power. While some pullback from 2017's 26% was likely, falling to a meek 9% was a shock, though supported by a drop in hard-hit rate in a year where the average rate increased. Contreras' plate skills held steady as did his BABIP, so his batting average drop was due to homers converted to outs. Contreras will be 27 years old this season, so chances are 2018 was more fluke than fact. Expect a power rebound, though capped by a 30% flyball rate. Since he'll remain a bell cow behind the dish, hitting in the meat of the Cubs' order, Contreras is a strong candidate to return top-five backstop status, likely at a discounted price.
CWS (C)
G
113
AB
402
AVG
.271
HR
18
RBI
55
SB
0
R
45
Castillo notched a .774 OPS and six home runs over his first 116 plate appearances last year before serving an 80-game PED suspension, and his return was delayed due to right shoulder inflammation. A quiet finish (.571 OPS in 16 games) might hide his ability to break out of an erratic mid-to-low-end catcher pool -- more like cesspool. Displaying weak plate discipline (career 6.8 BB%, 25.2 K%), he must rely on quality contact for high batting averages relative to the position. Castillo was a Statcast sleeper in 2017, with 43.7% of his batted balls being 95-plus mph. From 2014 to 2018, Beef Welington lived up to his nickname, ranking among the top 10 backstops with 72 homers, and he boasts a .304/.353/.518 slash with 15 homers against left-handers since the start of 2016. Even if shaky defense limits his playing time, the 32-year-old could turn a profit on a low-cost investment, especially if he can at least occasionally bat in the middle of the order.
Castillo notched a .774 OPS and six home runs over his first 116 plate appearances last year before serving an 80-game PED suspension, and his return was delayed due to right shoulder inflammation. A quiet finish (.571 OPS in 16 games) might hide his ability to break out of an erratic mid-to-low-end catcher pool -- more like cesspool. Displaying weak plate discipline (career 6.8 BB%, 25.2 K%), he must rely on quality contact for high batting averages relative to the position. Castillo was a Statcast sleeper in 2017, with 43.7% of his batted balls being 95-plus mph. From 2014 to 2018, Beef Welington lived up to his nickname, ranking among the top 10 backstops with 72 homers, and he boasts a .304/.353/.518 slash with 15 homers against left-handers since the start of 2016. Even if shaky defense limits his playing time, the 32-year-old could turn a profit on a low-cost investment, especially if he can at least occasionally bat in the middle of the order.
HOU (C)
G
114
AB
292
AVG
.233
HR
19
RBI
58
SB
0
R
51
After a string of solid seasons playing at most half the time, Chirinos was the Rangers' primary backstop last season and set a career high in games and plate appearances. The volume fueled career-best counting stats across the board. However, his skills universally waned. He fanned at a career-worst rate, with his lowest ISO since 2014 and worst average ever in a season with more than 50 games played. Chirinos' defense graded above average with the exception of controlling the running game where a whopping 89.8% (53-of-59) of runners were successful. Texas opted to decline his club option, signing Jeff Mathis instead. Chirinos latched on with the Astros, but since he'll be 35 in July, it's probably best to bet on a relatively even timeshare. With the horrid shape of the catching pool, he is in play in most two-catcher leagues. He'll be in the churning tier, where you hope he retains power with better contact, but if he doesn't, it'll be time to cut bait and move on.
After a string of solid seasons playing at most half the time, Chirinos was the Rangers' primary backstop last season and set a career high in games and plate appearances. The volume fueled career-best counting stats across the board. However, his skills universally waned. He fanned at a career-worst rate, with his lowest ISO since 2014 and worst average ever in a season with more than 50 games played. Chirinos' defense graded above average with the exception of controlling the running game where a whopping 89.8% (53-of-59) of runners were successful. Texas opted to decline his club option, signing Jeff Mathis instead. Chirinos latched on with the Astros, but since he'll be 35 in July, it's probably best to bet on a relatively even timeshare. With the horrid shape of the catching pool, he is in play in most two-catcher leagues. He'll be in the churning tier, where you hope he retains power with better contact, but if he doesn't, it'll be time to cut bait and move on.
LAD (C)
G
128
AB
384
AVG
.253
HR
13
RBI
41
SB
6
R
61
Barnes took over as the No. 1 during the 2017 postseason, starting 13 of 14 games after Yasmani Grandal started Game 1 of the NLDS, and many thought that he would end up being the primary backstop for most of 2018. Yeah, about that... Barnes logged just 238 plate appearances for the Dodgers and took a massive step back in terms of performance. His strikeout rate soared from 16.4% to 28.2% and in turn he lost more than 80 points from his batting average. Barnes' line-drive rate fell more than five percentage points and his rate-power stats absolutely cratered (.085 ISO, down from .197). Is all hope lost for the 29-year-old? He was an above-average contributor at every single stop on the farm and had a 142 wRC+ in 2017, so we'll say no and bet on a bounce back. With Grandal declining a qualifying offer, the door is open for Barnes to take over as the top option behind the plate, but he'll have to cement his spot atop the depth chart in spring training.
Barnes took over as the No. 1 during the 2017 postseason, starting 13 of 14 games after Yasmani Grandal started Game 1 of the NLDS, and many thought that he would end up being the primary backstop for most of 2018. Yeah, about that... Barnes logged just 238 plate appearances for the Dodgers and took a massive step back in terms of performance. His strikeout rate soared from 16.4% to 28.2% and in turn he lost more than 80 points from his batting average. Barnes' line-drive rate fell more than five percentage points and his rate-power stats absolutely cratered (.085 ISO, down from .197). Is all hope lost for the 29-year-old? He was an above-average contributor at every single stop on the farm and had a 142 wRC+ in 2017, so we'll say no and bet on a bounce back. With Grandal declining a qualifying offer, the door is open for Barnes to take over as the top option behind the plate, but he'll have to cement his spot atop the depth chart in spring training.
TB (C)
IL-10
G
120
AB
391
AVG
.228
HR
22
RBI
54
SB
0
R
45
Tampa Bay acquired Zunino from Seattle early in the offseason. He grades out well according to most fielding metrics, meshing well with the Rays' defense- and pitching-minded philosophy. Offensively, Zunino offers plus power but little else. He's fanned in at least one-third of his plate appearances since becoming a regular in 2014. He's durable for a backstop, playing in at least 112 games four of the last five seasons. In three of those years, he's smashed at least 20 homers. It's apparent 2017 is an outlier in terms of average as Zunino hasn't come close to the .251 mark posted that season. Tampa generally plays its lead catcher a lot so expect similar numbers to those he put up with the Mariners: Mario Mendoza with 20-something homers. If you can absorb the low average, Zunino will be a fantasy asset in all formats, though low walks hurt in OBP and points leagues.
Tampa Bay acquired Zunino from Seattle early in the offseason. He grades out well according to most fielding metrics, meshing well with the Rays' defense- and pitching-minded philosophy. Offensively, Zunino offers plus power but little else. He's fanned in at least one-third of his plate appearances since becoming a regular in 2014. He's durable for a backstop, playing in at least 112 games four of the last five seasons. In three of those years, he's smashed at least 20 homers. It's apparent 2017 is an outlier in terms of average as Zunino hasn't come close to the .251 mark posted that season. Tampa generally plays its lead catcher a lot so expect similar numbers to those he put up with the Mariners: Mario Mendoza with 20-something homers. If you can absorb the low average, Zunino will be a fantasy asset in all formats, though low walks hurt in OBP and points leagues.
WAS (C)
G
97
AB
323
AVG
.272
HR
14
RBI
50
SB
0
R
41
After splitting catching duties with Tyler Flowers the past two years with the Braves, Suzuki signed with the Nationals where he'll serve as Yan Gomes' backup, likely playing considerably less than in recent seasons. Suzuki's tenure with Atlanta was productive, as his 116 wRC+ was the fourth best among catchers during that span. His defense remains decent, though the pitch-framing metrics are less kind to him. A typically-stellar 11.1 K% backboned his offensive production, yielding an average much higher than most catchers, along with double-digit homer power. Suzuki's counting stats will obviously suffer with fewer plate appearances along with likely hitting lower in the order than he did with Atlanta. That said, his average will keep him relevant in all formats, assuming you're set with power and run production elsewhere. Not to mention, he's one errant foul tip to Gomes away from more consistent playing time.
After splitting catching duties with Tyler Flowers the past two years with the Braves, Suzuki signed with the Nationals where he'll serve as Yan Gomes' backup, likely playing considerably less than in recent seasons. Suzuki's tenure with Atlanta was productive, as his 116 wRC+ was the fourth best among catchers during that span. His defense remains decent, though the pitch-framing metrics are less kind to him. A typically-stellar 11.1 K% backboned his offensive production, yielding an average much higher than most catchers, along with double-digit homer power. Suzuki's counting stats will obviously suffer with fewer plate appearances along with likely hitting lower in the order than he did with Atlanta. That said, his average will keep him relevant in all formats, assuming you're set with power and run production elsewhere. Not to mention, he's one errant foul tip to Gomes away from more consistent playing time.
TOR (C)
G
113
AB
379
AVG
.274
HR
11
RBI
48
SB
1
R
46
A plus contributor at the desolate catcher position is a pipe dream for many. Jansen was a net positive during his time with Toronto in 2018, making him a popular late-round target this draft season. He smacked three homers, giving him 15 total across two levels, and posted a 115 wRC+, which if you lower the threshold to just 50 plate appearances, made Jansen a top-10 rate contributor at the position. Jansen also displayed quality plate skills with a manageable 17.9 K% and 9.5 BB%. The problem is that when he's everyone's favorite cheap catcher, eventually he will no longer be cheap. Drafters, especially those in two-catcher leagues, will continue to push him higher and higher as we get closer to Opening Day. It's possible Jansen will be worth it even after some helium, as he's firmly atop the depth chart with Russell Martin traded to Los Angeles. Just be sure to have some other names at the ready in case you get sniped.
A plus contributor at the desolate catcher position is a pipe dream for many. Jansen was a net positive during his time with Toronto in 2018, making him a popular late-round target this draft season. He smacked three homers, giving him 15 total across two levels, and posted a 115 wRC+, which if you lower the threshold to just 50 plate appearances, made Jansen a top-10 rate contributor at the position. Jansen also displayed quality plate skills with a manageable 17.9 K% and 9.5 BB%. The problem is that when he's everyone's favorite cheap catcher, eventually he will no longer be cheap. Drafters, especially those in two-catcher leagues, will continue to push him higher and higher as we get closer to Opening Day. It's possible Jansen will be worth it even after some helium, as he's firmly atop the depth chart with Russell Martin traded to Los Angeles. Just be sure to have some other names at the ready in case you get sniped.
MIN (C)
G
86
AB
302
AVG
.288
HR
12
RBI
50
SB
1
R
35
In the three-true-outcome era, Astudillo is an anomaly. He rarely walks (2.1 BB%) and rarely strikes out (3.1 K%). He led the majors with a 91.7% contact rate (min. 90 PA). A solid season at Triple-A (12 home runs, .782 OPS) resulted in a late-season callup and extensive playing time down the stretch. He hit .355, and after not hitting for any power from 2009 to 2016, he appears to finally be a contributor there as well (.161 ISO). However, questions about his defensive home are the reason he is now with his fourth organization. Listed at 5-foot-9, 225 pounds, he may not have the glove to be more than a backup behind the plate, and while he also played third base, second base and left field after reaching the majors for the first time, he is a below-average defender at all of those spots. Even in a part-time role, his eligibility at catcher will make him valuable in most roto leagues, as he could lead all catchers in batting average.
In the three-true-outcome era, Astudillo is an anomaly. He rarely walks (2.1 BB%) and rarely strikes out (3.1 K%). He led the majors with a 91.7% contact rate (min. 90 PA). A solid season at Triple-A (12 home runs, .782 OPS) resulted in a late-season callup and extensive playing time down the stretch. He hit .355, and after not hitting for any power from 2009 to 2016, he appears to finally be a contributor there as well (.161 ISO). However, questions about his defensive home are the reason he is now with his fourth organization. Listed at 5-foot-9, 225 pounds, he may not have the glove to be more than a backup behind the plate, and while he also played third base, second base and left field after reaching the majors for the first time, he is a below-average defender at all of those spots. Even in a part-time role, his eligibility at catcher will make him valuable in most roto leagues, as he could lead all catchers in batting average.
SD (C)
IL-10
G
73
AB
270
AVG
.293
HR
10
RBI
45
SB
2
R
37
Mejia remains a polarizing player for prospect evaluators. Most of the contention boils down to this: a disagreement as to whether or not Mejia can stick behind the plate. His bat should play anywhere on the field -- he's been well above league average with the bat at pretty much every stop -- but the bat would be far less exciting from a fantasy perspective at third base or a corner outfield spot than it would be at catcher. After arriving to the Pacific Coast League following a July trade from Cleveland, Mejia flexed with a .328/.364/.582 line. Mejia's K-rate jumped to 32.8% in his brief major-league sample with San Diego late in the year (58 PA), but he has a track record of posting marks in the mid-to-high-teens, so the bat-to-ball ability is not a huge concern. The Padres seem intent on giving Mejia every chance to stick at catcher, but remember Austin Hedges is there too. It's no lock that Mejia will even be the primary guy to start the season.
Mejia remains a polarizing player for prospect evaluators. Most of the contention boils down to this: a disagreement as to whether or not Mejia can stick behind the plate. His bat should play anywhere on the field -- he's been well above league average with the bat at pretty much every stop -- but the bat would be far less exciting from a fantasy perspective at third base or a corner outfield spot than it would be at catcher. After arriving to the Pacific Coast League following a July trade from Cleveland, Mejia flexed with a .328/.364/.582 line. Mejia's K-rate jumped to 32.8% in his brief major-league sample with San Diego late in the year (58 PA), but he has a track record of posting marks in the mid-to-high-teens, so the bat-to-ball ability is not a huge concern. The Padres seem intent on giving Mejia every chance to stick at catcher, but remember Austin Hedges is there too. It's no lock that Mejia will even be the primary guy to start the season.
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ATL (1B)
G
160
AB
604
AVG
.308
HR
29
RBI
105
SB
9
R
101
In a season where the headlines were dominated by phenoms Ronald Acuna and Ozzie Albies, Freeman was the rock in the three hole for the Braves in their resurgent season. He played in all 162 games for the second time in his nine-year career while hitting over .300 (.309) for a third straight season. Freeman did experience a dip in power with his lowest home-run rate since 2014 (3.3%), but managed to offset that somewhat by leading the majors in hits (191) and doubles -- a career-high 44. He also notched a career-best 10 steals and has attempted 13 steals in back-to-back seasons, so look for him to be a modest contributor on the bases again in 2019. With an impressive young core and the free-agent addition of Josh Donaldson, Atlanta's offense continues to trend up, giving Freeman a chance to improve on his 2018 counting stats. First base is no longer a bastion of elite fantasy hitters, but Freeman is an exception entering his age-29 season.
In a season where the headlines were dominated by phenoms Ronald Acuna and Ozzie Albies, Freeman was the rock in the three hole for the Braves in their resurgent season. He played in all 162 games for the second time in his nine-year career while hitting over .300 (.309) for a third straight season. Freeman did experience a dip in power with his lowest home-run rate since 2014 (3.3%), but managed to offset that somewhat by leading the majors in hits (191) and doubles -- a career-high 44. He also notched a career-best 10 steals and has attempted 13 steals in back-to-back seasons, so look for him to be a modest contributor on the bases again in 2019. With an impressive young core and the free-agent addition of Josh Donaldson, Atlanta's offense continues to trend up, giving Freeman a chance to improve on his 2018 counting stats. First base is no longer a bastion of elite fantasy hitters, but Freeman is an exception entering his age-29 season.
STL (1B)
G
157
AB
580
AVG
.298
HR
33
RBI
107
SB
7
R
101
The impact of the humidor was felt in Arizona, but it did not affect Goldschmidt's power numbers. His 2017 and 2018 seasons were essentially identical; he had 73 extra-base hits in 2017, and repeated that number in 2018. He lost three homers that became doubles and triples. The problem for him was that the talent around him fell off so his run-producing opportunities were impacted. From 2015 to 2017, Goldschmidt had an average of 431 runners on base each season when he was at the plate. In 2018, that number dropped to 386. He also ran far less frequently, continuing a trend from 2017. Goldschmidt's year-over-year skills are stable and safe, and the counting numbers should improve following a December trade to the Cardinals. We have to wonder if the days of double-digit steals are gone for good, but this is still a skill set worthy of an early selection -- just probably not a first-round pick anymore.
The impact of the humidor was felt in Arizona, but it did not affect Goldschmidt's power numbers. His 2017 and 2018 seasons were essentially identical; he had 73 extra-base hits in 2017, and repeated that number in 2018. He lost three homers that became doubles and triples. The problem for him was that the talent around him fell off so his run-producing opportunities were impacted. From 2015 to 2017, Goldschmidt had an average of 431 runners on base each season when he was at the plate. In 2018, that number dropped to 386. He also ran far less frequently, continuing a trend from 2017. Goldschmidt's year-over-year skills are stable and safe, and the counting numbers should improve following a December trade to the Cardinals. We have to wonder if the days of double-digit steals are gone for good, but this is still a skill set worthy of an early selection -- just probably not a first-round pick anymore.
LAD (1B)
G
158
AB
538
AVG
.286
HR
38
RBI
102
SB
9
R
98
Big things were expected from Bellinger in his second season after he ran away with the NL Rookie of the Year award. He did steal four more bases than he did in 2017 -- albeit in 30 more games -- but his numbers declined in the other standard fantasy categories and all three rates in his slash line, even as he lowered his strikeout rate and improved his BB:K. Those improvements helped him hit .285 and post a .369 OBP after the All-Star break, but that came at the expense of even more power. He also struggled quite a bit against southpaws in year two, as his OPS dipped from .903 to just .681. Despite the overall decline, Bellinger is still a versatile fantasy option, able to play two positions and contribute across the board. The increases in the second half suggest some improvement in plate selection, and there’s plenty of reason to expect Bellinger -- who won’t turn 24 until July 13 -- to bounce back if he can find his power stroke again.
Big things were expected from Bellinger in his second season after he ran away with the NL Rookie of the Year award. He did steal four more bases than he did in 2017 -- albeit in 30 more games -- but his numbers declined in the other standard fantasy categories and all three rates in his slash line, even as he lowered his strikeout rate and improved his BB:K. Those improvements helped him hit .285 and post a .369 OBP after the All-Star break, but that came at the expense of even more power. He also struggled quite a bit against southpaws in year two, as his OPS dipped from .903 to just .681. Despite the overall decline, Bellinger is still a versatile fantasy option, able to play two positions and contribute across the board. The increases in the second half suggest some improvement in plate selection, and there’s plenty of reason to expect Bellinger -- who won’t turn 24 until July 13 -- to bounce back if he can find his power stroke again.
CHC (1B)
G
154
AB
571
AVG
.277
HR
30
RBI
104
SB
5
R
87
Heading into last draft season, conventional wisdom suggested Rizzo's strong health and bankable power made him one of the safer early-round building blocks, but that narrative won't be quite as prevalent anymore. Rizzo wasn't a bust, but his 25 homers were disappointing after he hit 31 or 32 between 2014 and 2017. His 74 runs -- aided by a month-long stay in the leadoff spot -- were also 15 fewer than he recorded in any of the prior four years. Rizzo's nadir came in April, during which the Cubs played a schedule littered with rainouts and poor-weather games. As the weather heated up, so did Rizzo's bat, as he slashed .329/.420/.550 and supplied 13 of his homers after the break. Inclement early-season weather remains a potential issue, but Rizzo actually owns a higher career wRC+ in the first half (134) than the second (126). That offers hope that last year's early slump was anomalous.
Heading into last draft season, conventional wisdom suggested Rizzo's strong health and bankable power made him one of the safer early-round building blocks, but that narrative won't be quite as prevalent anymore. Rizzo wasn't a bust, but his 25 homers were disappointing after he hit 31 or 32 between 2014 and 2017. His 74 runs -- aided by a month-long stay in the leadoff spot -- were also 15 fewer than he recorded in any of the prior four years. Rizzo's nadir came in April, during which the Cubs played a schedule littered with rainouts and poor-weather games. As the weather heated up, so did Rizzo's bat, as he slashed .329/.420/.550 and supplied 13 of his homers after the break. Inclement early-season weather remains a potential issue, but Rizzo actually owns a higher career wRC+ in the first half (134) than the second (126). That offers hope that last year's early slump was anomalous.
NYY (1B)
G
138
AB
503
AVG
.298
HR
29
RBI
93
SB
0
R
81
The Yankees needed an insurance policy behind Greg Bird at first base. Many were underwhelmed when that player turned out to be Voit. Funny how things work out. He hit two homers in a game Aug. 26 and the Yankees decided to give him a longer look at first. Voit hit .323/.402/.707 in his final 28 games, relegating Bird to the bench and off the roster entirely for the Wild Card Game. He had an OPS over 1.000 against RHP and LHP. Voit had flashed some pop, but as a 22nd round pick in 2013 and a R/R first baseman, he was never considered much of a prospect. Given that lack of pedigree and his 26.7 K%, it's understandable to be skeptical of a player whose first big-league success came at age 27. However, everything in his batted-ball profile (47.0 Hard%, 35.0 GB%, 41.0 Pull%) suggests he deserved all the success he had last season. That does not mean he will replicate it, but there are not glaring red flags that suggest significant regression is coming.
The Yankees needed an insurance policy behind Greg Bird at first base. Many were underwhelmed when that player turned out to be Voit. Funny how things work out. He hit two homers in a game Aug. 26 and the Yankees decided to give him a longer look at first. Voit hit .323/.402/.707 in his final 28 games, relegating Bird to the bench and off the roster entirely for the Wild Card Game. He had an OPS over 1.000 against RHP and LHP. Voit had flashed some pop, but as a 22nd round pick in 2013 and a R/R first baseman, he was never considered much of a prospect. Given that lack of pedigree and his 26.7 K%, it's understandable to be skeptical of a player whose first big-league success came at age 27. However, everything in his batted-ball profile (47.0 Hard%, 35.0 GB%, 41.0 Pull%) suggests he deserved all the success he had last season. That does not mean he will replicate it, but there are not glaring red flags that suggest significant regression is coming.
CWS (1B)
G
143
AB
558
AVG
.287
HR
28
RBI
90
SB
1
R
77
In mid-August, Abreu appeared primed to make history as just the third player ever to hit 25 homers and drive in 100 runs in five consecutive seasons to begin his big-league career (joining Albert Pujols and Joe DiMaggio). Unfortunately, a lower-abdominal/groin issue required surgery and he only made it back for six games in September before a thigh infection put him right back on the shelf. While he didn't quite reach those lofty thresholds, Abreu still had a solid season by any standard. It wasn't quite what we'd seen from Abreu in the past -- his 114 wRC+ was a career low and he lost close to 40 points of batting average -- but the production was still plenty valuable. The strikeout rate ticked up a little and it's probably unwise to expect Abreu to get back to .300, but he should still be an easy plus in that category and three others. First base as a whole fell off in 2018 and Abreu is a clear top-10 option at the position.
In mid-August, Abreu appeared primed to make history as just the third player ever to hit 25 homers and drive in 100 runs in five consecutive seasons to begin his big-league career (joining Albert Pujols and Joe DiMaggio). Unfortunately, a lower-abdominal/groin issue required surgery and he only made it back for six games in September before a thigh infection put him right back on the shelf. While he didn't quite reach those lofty thresholds, Abreu still had a solid season by any standard. It wasn't quite what we'd seen from Abreu in the past -- his 114 wRC+ was a career low and he lost close to 40 points of batting average -- but the production was still plenty valuable. The strikeout rate ticked up a little and it's probably unwise to expect Abreu to get back to .300, but he should still be an easy plus in that category and three others. First base as a whole fell off in 2018 and Abreu is a clear top-10 option at the position.
TEX (1B)
G
147
AB
486
AVG
.220
HR
38
RBI
90
SB
4
R
78
The lazy comp would be to call Gallo a modern-day Adam Dunn. However, Dunn was not hitting in the low .200s until the final seasons of his career while it is all Gallo has known in nearly 1,300 plate appearances at the big-league level. Gallo is athletic for his size and is definitely filling the rest of his three-true-outcome shoes. Gallo has hit 40-plus homers and generated at least 165 runs-plus-RBI in consecutive seasons, but he has really hurt in batting-average leagues with a batting average 45 points below the league average. He walks enough (13.4 career BB%) to be more valuable in OBP leagues, although his .317 career OBP is still a below-average mark. We roster him because the power is prodigious and it is 35 homers and 150 runs of production in the bank. There will likely be the occasional year where lucks his way to a .225 average, but bank on something closer to .200 when formulating a plan to offset his one big negative.
The lazy comp would be to call Gallo a modern-day Adam Dunn. However, Dunn was not hitting in the low .200s until the final seasons of his career while it is all Gallo has known in nearly 1,300 plate appearances at the big-league level. Gallo is athletic for his size and is definitely filling the rest of his three-true-outcome shoes. Gallo has hit 40-plus homers and generated at least 165 runs-plus-RBI in consecutive seasons, but he has really hurt in batting-average leagues with a batting average 45 points below the league average. He walks enough (13.4 career BB%) to be more valuable in OBP leagues, although his .317 career OBP is still a below-average mark. We roster him because the power is prodigious and it is 35 homers and 150 runs of production in the bank. There will likely be the occasional year where lucks his way to a .225 average, but bank on something closer to .200 when formulating a plan to offset his one big negative.
ARI (1B)
G
154
AB
496
AVG
.258
HR
24
RBI
90
SB
4
R
84
Walker is 28 years old and has managed 99 plate appearances at the big-league level over the past four seasons, owning a .163/.226/.388 line for his efforts. Meanwhile, he has amassed 2,282 plate appearances in Triple-A and has a .279/.344/.494 line there. This is the tale of a Quad-A player in that he has been able to hang around on the 40-man roster for this long, but has not yet had any opportunity to stick in the majors. Now that Paul Goldschmidt is no longer in Arizona, perhaps Walker will get a chance to show he can hit big-league pitching, though the Diamondbacks are expected to slot Jake Lamb in as the starter at first base to begin the season. Walker is out of options, so he has to make the 25-man roster or be exposed to waivers and take his Triple-A mashing to another organization.
Walker is 28 years old and has managed 99 plate appearances at the big-league level over the past four seasons, owning a .163/.226/.388 line for his efforts. Meanwhile, he has amassed 2,282 plate appearances in Triple-A and has a .279/.344/.494 line there. This is the tale of a Quad-A player in that he has been able to hang around on the 40-man roster for this long, but has not yet had any opportunity to stick in the majors. Now that Paul Goldschmidt is no longer in Arizona, perhaps Walker will get a chance to show he can hit big-league pitching, though the Diamondbacks are expected to slot Jake Lamb in as the starter at first base to begin the season. Walker is out of options, so he has to make the 25-man roster or be exposed to waivers and take his Triple-A mashing to another organization.
CIN (1B)
G
153
AB
531
AVG
.284
HR
21
RBI
76
SB
3
R
89
Votto led the NL with a .417 OBP, but barely out-slugged his OBP, coming in at .419 with only 12 homers. He lost 39 runs and 33 RBI despite an improved lineup around him. That dropoff was particularly acute after he got hit by a Ryan Madson fastball on the knee on Aug. 4 -- he had to go on the DL and hit just three homers over 201 subsequent plate appearances. But even before that incident, Votto was hitting .289/.422/.442 over 422 first-half plate appearances. He turned 35 in September and it's fair to question how much of his power decline is attributable to age and not injury. Two positive signs: his 41.0 Hard% was the best mark of his entire career and his groundball rate was still under 40%. After carrying a second-round price tag last season, he had an NFBC ADP of 77.6 in the month of December. That's a pretty nice discount for someone who is a safe bet to prop up a fantasy team's batting average and is one year removed from hitting 36 home runs.
Votto led the NL with a .417 OBP, but barely out-slugged his OBP, coming in at .419 with only 12 homers. He lost 39 runs and 33 RBI despite an improved lineup around him. That dropoff was particularly acute after he got hit by a Ryan Madson fastball on the knee on Aug. 4 -- he had to go on the DL and hit just three homers over 201 subsequent plate appearances. But even before that incident, Votto was hitting .289/.422/.442 over 422 first-half plate appearances. He turned 35 in September and it's fair to question how much of his power decline is attributable to age and not injury. Two positive signs: his 41.0 Hard% was the best mark of his entire career and his groundball rate was still under 40%. After carrying a second-round price tag last season, he had an NFBC ADP of 77.6 in the month of December. That's a pretty nice discount for someone who is a safe bet to prop up a fantasy team's batting average and is one year removed from hitting 36 home runs.
STL (1B)
G
140
AB
507
AVG
.256
HR
28
RBI
75
SB
3
R
91
On May 15, Carpenter went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts, and his slash line sat at .140/.286/.272. Many wondered if Carpenter's shoulder, the one he declined surgery on in the offseason, was hurting too much for him to be productive. A look at the Statcast data told us that Carpenter was the victim of bad luck as his batted-ball data should have produced a .430 SLG. The next day, Carpenter had two doubles, and went on a tear that resulted in him hitting .287/.397/.587 the rest of the season. The craziest part about those numbers is that Carpenter only had five extra-base hits in the final month of the season. From May 15 through Aug. 31, he hit .317/.420/.677! He hits a plethora of flyballs, and is coming off a career-high hard-contact rate. We have a monster summer bookended by a miserable April and September. The multi-positional eligibility (1B and 3B, and 2B in leagues with a 10-game minimum) is a bonus.
On May 15, Carpenter went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts, and his slash line sat at .140/.286/.272. Many wondered if Carpenter's shoulder, the one he declined surgery on in the offseason, was hurting too much for him to be productive. A look at the Statcast data told us that Carpenter was the victim of bad luck as his batted-ball data should have produced a .430 SLG. The next day, Carpenter had two doubles, and went on a tear that resulted in him hitting .287/.397/.587 the rest of the season. The craziest part about those numbers is that Carpenter only had five extra-base hits in the final month of the season. From May 15 through Aug. 31, he hit .317/.420/.677! He hits a plethora of flyballs, and is coming off a career-high hard-contact rate. We have a monster summer bookended by a miserable April and September. The multi-positional eligibility (1B and 3B, and 2B in leagues with a 10-game minimum) is a bonus.
CLE (1B)
G
159
AB
578
AVG
.251
HR
24
RBI
85
SB
3
R
85
Santana's numbers were a disappointment for the Phillies, who signed him for three years and $60 million last winter. There are reasons to be encouraged by his season, however. His walk rate spiked to 16.2% while his strikeout rate fell to a career-low 13.7%, leaving him with a 1.18 BB/K, second in the league to Jose Ramirez. He ran into a lot of bad batted-ball luck, finishing with a .231 BABIP, which fell far below his career .265 mark. It's not outrageous to think he can get back close to the .259 batting average he posted for two straight years before coming to Philadelphia as long as he holds onto his plate discipline improvements. Age concerns can't be ignored, as Santana turns 33 in early April, but the trade back to the American League and into a likely DH role with the Indians should help keep him fresh.
Santana's numbers were a disappointment for the Phillies, who signed him for three years and $60 million last winter. There are reasons to be encouraged by his season, however. His walk rate spiked to 16.2% while his strikeout rate fell to a career-low 13.7%, leaving him with a 1.18 BB/K, second in the league to Jose Ramirez. He ran into a lot of bad batted-ball luck, finishing with a .231 BABIP, which fell far below his career .265 mark. It's not outrageous to think he can get back close to the .259 batting average he posted for two straight years before coming to Philadelphia as long as he holds onto his plate discipline improvements. Age concerns can't be ignored, as Santana turns 33 in early April, but the trade back to the American League and into a likely DH role with the Indians should help keep him fresh.
SEA (1B)
G
145
AB
525
AVG
.242
HR
27
RBI
93
SB
1
R
74
Encarnacion's seven straight seasons of 30-plus homers represent the longest such streak in the majors, but that kind of consistency is getting increasingly harder for him to maintain. He's aged gracefully as a slugger thus far, as his ISO has dipped only gradually year by year instead of plummeting harshly. The same had mostly held true for his on-base and contact skills, too -- until 2018. Encarnacion's batting average and OBP fell to .246 and .336, respectively, with a 5.5-point rise in O-Swing% and a career-high 10.8 swinging-strike percentage backing up the notion that his plate discipline has slipped. These things don't tend to improve for mid-30s players, so barring some BABIP magic, Encarnacion seems more likely to see his average slip further than have it recover in a meaningful way. His offseason move to a Seattle club seemingly in rebuilding mode could result in his run and RBI counts taking a hit as well.
Encarnacion's seven straight seasons of 30-plus homers represent the longest such streak in the majors, but that kind of consistency is getting increasingly harder for him to maintain. He's aged gracefully as a slugger thus far, as his ISO has dipped only gradually year by year instead of plummeting harshly. The same had mostly held true for his on-base and contact skills, too -- until 2018. Encarnacion's batting average and OBP fell to .246 and .336, respectively, with a 5.5-point rise in O-Swing% and a career-high 10.8 swinging-strike percentage backing up the notion that his plate discipline has slipped. These things don't tend to improve for mid-30s players, so barring some BABIP magic, Encarnacion seems more likely to see his average slip further than have it recover in a meaningful way. His offseason move to a Seattle club seemingly in rebuilding mode could result in his run and RBI counts taking a hit as well.
HOU (1B)
G
141
AB
543
AVG
.293
HR
17
RBI
80
SB
4
R
71
The numbers may not jump off the page, but Gurriel had a fine season for fantasy purposes, finishing as a top-20 first baseman ahead of the likes of Joey Votto and Eric Hosmer. His defensive metrics were not exactly glowing, but his ability to at least hold his own around the infield gave the Astros some flexibility during absences of top stars Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa. He posted an 11.0% K-rate, which was an exact copy of his 2017 mark -- he did that despite a significant uptick in his O-Swing%. Gurriel improved dramatically against opposite-handed pitching, hitting .331/.371/.519 against lefties, up from .252/.300/.395 in 2017. He experienced a decline against right-handed pitching and an overall dip in power, but as he approaches his 35th birthday, Gurriel still has a solid foundation of skills. It seems like a decent bet that Gurriel, now third-base eligible, will clear 500 plate appearances again for Houston.
The numbers may not jump off the page, but Gurriel had a fine season for fantasy purposes, finishing as a top-20 first baseman ahead of the likes of Joey Votto and Eric Hosmer. His defensive metrics were not exactly glowing, but his ability to at least hold his own around the infield gave the Astros some flexibility during absences of top stars Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa. He posted an 11.0% K-rate, which was an exact copy of his 2017 mark -- he did that despite a significant uptick in his O-Swing%. Gurriel improved dramatically against opposite-handed pitching, hitting .331/.371/.519 against lefties, up from .252/.300/.395 in 2017. He experienced a decline against right-handed pitching and an overall dip in power, but as he approaches his 35th birthday, Gurriel still has a solid foundation of skills. It seems like a decent bet that Gurriel, now third-base eligible, will clear 500 plate appearances again for Houston.
TOR (1B)
G
150
AB
526
AVG
.247
HR
28
RBI
84
SB
0
R
76
Smoak paired an elevated launch angle with his usually solid plate discipline to submit a long-awaited breakout in 2017. While he was a productive hitter on the whole again last season (121 wRC+), most of his success was derived from his 0.53 BB/K rather than maintaining his prior gains in the power department. Smoak lost 13 home runs from his 2017 total, with that decline likely attributable to a 2.2-degree drop in his launch angle and sizable corresponding downturns in his hard-hit and barrel rates. The 32-year-old shouldn't be written off entirely as a rebound candidate for 2019. Another 25-homer, high-OBP/low-average campaign could await Smoak, who had his $8 million option exercised by Toronto in the offseason. That profile is useful enough in real-life terms, but not as much in the fantasy realm.
Smoak paired an elevated launch angle with his usually solid plate discipline to submit a long-awaited breakout in 2017. While he was a productive hitter on the whole again last season (121 wRC+), most of his success was derived from his 0.53 BB/K rather than maintaining his prior gains in the power department. Smoak lost 13 home runs from his 2017 total, with that decline likely attributable to a 2.2-degree drop in his launch angle and sizable corresponding downturns in his hard-hit and barrel rates. The 32-year-old shouldn't be written off entirely as a rebound candidate for 2019. Another 25-homer, high-OBP/low-average campaign could await Smoak, who had his $8 million option exercised by Toronto in the offseason. That profile is useful enough in real-life terms, but not as much in the fantasy realm.
PIT (1B)
G
151
AB
522
AVG
.274
HR
21
RBI
80
SB
1
R
77
There were some positives in Bell’s 2018 season. His batting average improved by six points, his on-base percentage increased by 23 points and he improved his already-stellar walk and strikeout rates. However, these upgrades were heavily offset by a downturn in power. Bell hit just 12 homers compared to 26 the year prior and his slugging percentage dropped 55 points as a result. Some of this regression was expected, as his home-run-to-flyball rate came back down to a more reasonable 9.2% from his 19.1% mark in 2017. His struggles against left-handed pitching also hurt him, as he mustered just a .734 OPS with two home runs against them last season. Bell’s standing as the Pirates’ starting first baseman is safe, but he needs to improve his power output to avoid getting lost in the wash at the first-base position.
There were some positives in Bell’s 2018 season. His batting average improved by six points, his on-base percentage increased by 23 points and he improved his already-stellar walk and strikeout rates. However, these upgrades were heavily offset by a downturn in power. Bell hit just 12 homers compared to 26 the year prior and his slugging percentage dropped 55 points as a result. Some of this regression was expected, as his home-run-to-flyball rate came back down to a more reasonable 9.2% from his 19.1% mark in 2017. His struggles against left-handed pitching also hurt him, as he mustered just a .734 OPS with two home runs against them last season. Bell’s standing as the Pirates’ starting first baseman is safe, but he needs to improve his power output to avoid getting lost in the wash at the first-base position.
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HOU (2B)
IL-10
G
151
AB
571
AVG
.331
HR
19
RBI
74
SB
25
R
97
Altuve played most of the season with a knee injury that was diagnosed as an avulsion fracture after the Astros were knocked out by Boston. He required surgery in late October. Despite the bum wheel, Altuve remained an above-average offensive player albeit not at the same level of the prior few seasons. The bad wheel goes a long way in explaining where the steals went, though the Astros as a team attempted significantly fewer stolen bases. It is an exercise in futility to pick apart his underlying 2018 numbers because he is still an elite hitter. Altuve's ability to hit 20-plus homers is contingent upon him playing 150-plus games and enjoying the Crawford Boxes, but he should be able to resume his overall run production as he is still in his peak years. You'll just have to forgive him for attempting to play through his knee troubles and go back to the well again as there will not be much of a discount at all.
Altuve played most of the season with a knee injury that was diagnosed as an avulsion fracture after the Astros were knocked out by Boston. He required surgery in late October. Despite the bum wheel, Altuve remained an above-average offensive player albeit not at the same level of the prior few seasons. The bad wheel goes a long way in explaining where the steals went, though the Astros as a team attempted significantly fewer stolen bases. It is an exercise in futility to pick apart his underlying 2018 numbers because he is still an elite hitter. Altuve's ability to hit 20-plus homers is contingent upon him playing 150-plus games and enjoying the Crawford Boxes, but he should be able to resume his overall run production as he is still in his peak years. You'll just have to forgive him for attempting to play through his knee troubles and go back to the well again as there will not be much of a discount at all.
KC (2B)
G
155
AB
615
AVG
.298
HR
14
RBI
73
SB
38
R
82
Merrifield had plenty of skeptics after his out-of-nowhere 19-homer, 34-steal campaign in 2017, but the 30-year-old quieted his doubters and surpassed even the most optimistic projections. Though he noticed a minor power drop and a downturn in RBI largely fueled by the lack of talent flanking him, Merrifield improved by just about every other measure. Most of his value came from his .304 average and 45 stolen bases, with his production rendered more significant by the MLB-wide mean in both categories reaching their lowest levels since 1972. A .352 BABIP helped Merrifield uphold the lofty average, but he created some of his own good fortune by steadily raising his line-drive (29.8%) and hard-hit (36.9%) rates while posting a Statcast Sprint Speed that ranked in the 91st percentile. The team context around Merrifield won't be much better in 2019, but it may only further embolden manager Ned Yost to give him the green light to run.
Merrifield had plenty of skeptics after his out-of-nowhere 19-homer, 34-steal campaign in 2017, but the 30-year-old quieted his doubters and surpassed even the most optimistic projections. Though he noticed a minor power drop and a downturn in RBI largely fueled by the lack of talent flanking him, Merrifield improved by just about every other measure. Most of his value came from his .304 average and 45 stolen bases, with his production rendered more significant by the MLB-wide mean in both categories reaching their lowest levels since 1972. A .352 BABIP helped Merrifield uphold the lofty average, but he created some of his own good fortune by steadily raising his line-drive (29.8%) and hard-hit (36.9%) rates while posting a Statcast Sprint Speed that ranked in the 91st percentile. The team context around Merrifield won't be much better in 2019, but it may only further embolden manager Ned Yost to give him the green light to run.
ATL (2B)
G
157
AB
631
AVG
.273
HR
19
RBI
70
SB
20
R
102
The performance of young players after the break is often considered telling. If that’s the case, why is Albies getting a pass, despite a huge second half swoon? Albies posted a .834 OPS and 120 wRC+ before the break compared to a .624 OPS and 67 wRC+ after. His strikeout rate rose 1.5%, but that’s not enough to account for the disparity. The culprit was a 32-point dip in BABIP, fueled by a drop in hard-hit rate. Medium-hits balls carry the lowest BABIP and 60 percent of Albies' second-half contact was of that variety. Accordingly, his 14.7% first-half HR/FB plummeted to 5.6% post-break. Conveniently omitted is Albies isn’t just young, he did this as a 21-year-old sophomore. Albies' overall game remains impressive at his age, but he could be in danger of hitting lower in the Braves' order if he doesn’t get off to a fast start, depriving him of some counting stat volume. The power/speed combo is enticing, just beware it’s not risk-free.
The performance of young players after the break is often considered telling. If that’s the case, why is Albies getting a pass, despite a huge second half swoon? Albies posted a .834 OPS and 120 wRC+ before the break compared to a .624 OPS and 67 wRC+ after. His strikeout rate rose 1.5%, but that’s not enough to account for the disparity. The culprit was a 32-point dip in BABIP, fueled by a drop in hard-hit rate. Medium-hits balls carry the lowest BABIP and 60 percent of Albies' second-half contact was of that variety. Accordingly, his 14.7% first-half HR/FB plummeted to 5.6% post-break. Conveniently omitted is Albies isn’t just young, he did this as a 21-year-old sophomore. Albies' overall game remains impressive at his age, but he could be in danger of hitting lower in the Braves' order if he doesn’t get off to a fast start, depriving him of some counting stat volume. The power/speed combo is enticing, just beware it’s not risk-free.
TEX (2B)
G
155
AB
575
AVG
.256
HR
29
RBI
79
SB
10
R
83
Coming off a 2017 season with conflicting underlying metrics and surface stats, Odor took the disconnect to a higher level last season. As expected, Odor's BABIP rebounded, though based on an elevated 45.2% hard-hit rate, his .305 BABIP was low. More curious was a drop in HR/FB despite playing half his games in Globe Life Park, one of the best venues for lefty power. The drop in HR/FB in tandem with a slight decline in flyball rate resulted in just 18 homers, after he slugged a combined 63 the previous two campaigns, though missing a month early tempered his total. Consistency is also an issue as Odor posted a .602 OPS through June 28 while registering a .605 mark from Aug. 12 on. In between he recorded a 1.055 OPS. Odor managed a dozen steals, but since he was caught an equal number of times, he may not be given the green light as often. Odor has the underlying skills to be a top-10 second baseman.
Coming off a 2017 season with conflicting underlying metrics and surface stats, Odor took the disconnect to a higher level last season. As expected, Odor's BABIP rebounded, though based on an elevated 45.2% hard-hit rate, his .305 BABIP was low. More curious was a drop in HR/FB despite playing half his games in Globe Life Park, one of the best venues for lefty power. The drop in HR/FB in tandem with a slight decline in flyball rate resulted in just 18 homers, after he slugged a combined 63 the previous two campaigns, though missing a month early tempered his total. Consistency is also an issue as Odor posted a .602 OPS through June 28 while registering a .605 mark from Aug. 12 on. In between he recorded a 1.055 OPS. Odor managed a dozen steals, but since he was caught an equal number of times, he may not be given the green light as often. Odor has the underlying skills to be a top-10 second baseman.
NYM (2B)
G
152
AB
604
AVG
.286
HR
21
RBI
87
SB
0
R
84
Cano is set to embark on his second stint in New York City, this time in Queens as the Mets acquired him in Seattle's offseason fire sale. He's expected to step in at second, possibly playing some first as well. Cano's 2018 campaign was marred by an 80-game suspension coinciding with recovery from surgery after having his pinky fractured by a pitch in mid-May. When he returned, Cano didn't miss a beat, enjoying his best season in terms of decimals since his first year in Seattle. Outstanding contact remains Cano's calling card -- he fanned just 13.5% of the time. His hard-hit rate was the highest of his career, supported by an average exit velocity well above league average in tandem with a solid barrel rate. Now 36 years old, Cano will receive the "senior citizen" discount, pushing his cost well outside the top 100 even though he's finished well inside that range four of the past five years, his truncated 2018 being the exception.
Cano is set to embark on his second stint in New York City, this time in Queens as the Mets acquired him in Seattle's offseason fire sale. He's expected to step in at second, possibly playing some first as well. Cano's 2018 campaign was marred by an 80-game suspension coinciding with recovery from surgery after having his pinky fractured by a pitch in mid-May. When he returned, Cano didn't miss a beat, enjoying his best season in terms of decimals since his first year in Seattle. Outstanding contact remains Cano's calling card -- he fanned just 13.5% of the time. His hard-hit rate was the highest of his career, supported by an average exit velocity well above league average in tandem with a solid barrel rate. Now 36 years old, Cano will receive the "senior citizen" discount, pushing his cost well outside the top 100 even though he's finished well inside that range four of the past five years, his truncated 2018 being the exception.
CWS (2B)
G
148
AB
569
AVG
.248
HR
22
RBI
65
SB
21
R
86
Moncada took a step back in 2018. His K% edged up from 32% to 33.4% while his BB% slipped from 12.6% to 10.3%. He hit 5% more flyballs, but a drop in HR/FB from 18.2% to 11.7% mitigated the effect. He grades well in average exit velocity but fell back in barrel rate, helping explain the drop in power. Moncada's 12-for-18 mark in steals was disappointing after the speed he displayed in the low minors. He also displayed less range on defense, contributing to -5 defensive runs saved. There's a chance he's moved to third or the outfield, but for now the White Sox plan on keeping him at the keystone. Moncada will turn 24 in May, so there's no reason to lose faith, but he's near the point where skills maturation is needed if he's to live up to the hype. Titles are often won taking chances. While there aren't any signs his breakout is imminent, the acquisition cost has softened to the point the reward could outweigh the risk.
Moncada took a step back in 2018. His K% edged up from 32% to 33.4% while his BB% slipped from 12.6% to 10.3%. He hit 5% more flyballs, but a drop in HR/FB from 18.2% to 11.7% mitigated the effect. He grades well in average exit velocity but fell back in barrel rate, helping explain the drop in power. Moncada's 12-for-18 mark in steals was disappointing after the speed he displayed in the low minors. He also displayed less range on defense, contributing to -5 defensive runs saved. There's a chance he's moved to third or the outfield, but for now the White Sox plan on keeping him at the keystone. Moncada will turn 24 in May, so there's no reason to lose faith, but he's near the point where skills maturation is needed if he's to live up to the hype. Titles are often won taking chances. While there aren't any signs his breakout is imminent, the acquisition cost has softened to the point the reward could outweigh the risk.
COL (2B)
G
135
AB
497
AVG
.308
HR
20
RBI
79
SB
2
R
76
Those that rostered Murphy and waited out his lengthy recovery from offseason right knee surgery were undoubtedly frustrated when he flopped upon debuting in mid-June, as he submitted a woeful .643 OPS with only one homer and six runs in 28 games prior to the break. Just when shallow-league managers probably wanted to cut bait, Murphy rediscovered his vintage form, slashing .315/.346/.498 in the second half while enjoying a bump in run production after settling in as the Cubs' leadoff man following an August trade. Murphy is now in Colorado and proved last season that his stellar bat-to-ball skills remain intact, affording him a high batting-average floor, but the durability issues and the stark downturn in power he experienced last season are blights on his fantasy profile that should be taken into account. After carrying a .235 ISO and 36.9% hard-hit rate between 2016 and 2017, Murphy tailed off all the way to .155 and 26.1% in 2018.
Those that rostered Murphy and waited out his lengthy recovery from offseason right knee surgery were undoubtedly frustrated when he flopped upon debuting in mid-June, as he submitted a woeful .643 OPS with only one homer and six runs in 28 games prior to the break. Just when shallow-league managers probably wanted to cut bait, Murphy rediscovered his vintage form, slashing .315/.346/.498 in the second half while enjoying a bump in run production after settling in as the Cubs' leadoff man following an August trade. Murphy is now in Colorado and proved last season that his stellar bat-to-ball skills remain intact, affording him a high batting-average floor, but the durability issues and the stark downturn in power he experienced last season are blights on his fantasy profile that should be taken into account. After carrying a .235 ISO and 36.9% hard-hit rate between 2016 and 2017, Murphy tailed off all the way to .155 and 26.1% in 2018.
BAL (2B)
G
137
AB
466
AVG
.260
HR
13
RBI
45
SB
43
R
61
After a 2016 breakout, a 2017 dropoff and a tumultuous first half with sporadic playing time, Villar surged again after a trade to Baltimore. Playing close to every day, the speedster hit eight home runs and stole 21 bases in 24 chances over the final two months, helping many owners to fantasy championships. In the past three years, he's tied for third with 120 steals, and he boasts a 9.2 BB% during that span. He hits a lot of balls on the ground but has legitimate raw power, as evidenced by Villar's hefty 18.9% HR/FB since 2015. This all comes with a 27.3 K%, but even with that hindrance, he's among the best bets to go 15-30 in the majors. Following their teardown last summer, Baltimore should hand Villar full-time work, and there's no downside to letting him run wild. Given the surging market for stolen bases, Villar will carry a high price, but at least it won't be as great as his pre-2017 cost.
After a 2016 breakout, a 2017 dropoff and a tumultuous first half with sporadic playing time, Villar surged again after a trade to Baltimore. Playing close to every day, the speedster hit eight home runs and stole 21 bases in 24 chances over the final two months, helping many owners to fantasy championships. In the past three years, he's tied for third with 120 steals, and he boasts a 9.2 BB% during that span. He hits a lot of balls on the ground but has legitimate raw power, as evidenced by Villar's hefty 18.9% HR/FB since 2015. This all comes with a 27.3 K%, but even with that hindrance, he's among the best bets to go 15-30 in the majors. Following their teardown last summer, Baltimore should hand Villar full-time work, and there's no downside to letting him run wild. Given the surging market for stolen bases, Villar will carry a high price, but at least it won't be as great as his pre-2017 cost.
MIN (2B)
G
145
AB
546
AVG
.262
HR
25
RBI
79
SB
1
R
75
Brewers GM David Stearns hoped Schoop would be able to provide a shot in the arm at a position the Brewers did not get much from in 2018, but he made little impact for the club and saw only scant playing time by season’s end. Because of that, the Brewers elected not to tender Schoop a contract during the offseason, making him a free agent. It was just two years ago that Schoop posted an .841 OPS and finished with 105 RBI, but that year he posted a .954 OPS against southpaws. Last year, he finished with just a .647 OPS against lefties, which is more in line with the .693 OPS he has posted against left-handers in his career. Schoop has pop, hitting at least 20 home runs three years in a row, and he should have an everyday role with the Twins, but unless he figures out how to hit lefties again, it’s likely he will be the good player he has been most of his career rather than the great one he was in 2017.
Brewers GM David Stearns hoped Schoop would be able to provide a shot in the arm at a position the Brewers did not get much from in 2018, but he made little impact for the club and saw only scant playing time by season’s end. Because of that, the Brewers elected not to tender Schoop a contract during the offseason, making him a free agent. It was just two years ago that Schoop posted an .841 OPS and finished with 105 RBI, but that year he posted a .954 OPS against southpaws. Last year, he finished with just a .647 OPS against lefties, which is more in line with the .693 OPS he has posted against left-handers in his career. Schoop has pop, hitting at least 20 home runs three years in a row, and he should have an everyday role with the Twins, but unless he figures out how to hit lefties again, it’s likely he will be the good player he has been most of his career rather than the great one he was in 2017.
SEA (2B)
IL-10
G
155
AB
622
AVG
.275
HR
5
RBI
38
SB
40
R
72
Gordon has been at one extreme or another over the past five seasons as he has stolen either close to 60 bases in a season, or 30. Last year was one of those down years and it marked the second time in three seasons he stole 30. Thirty is the new 60 in terms of the running game league-wide, but nobody who drafted Gordon as highly as they did last year projected him for 30 bases. The main culprit in the reduction of his running was an anemic 2% walk rate. Pitchers know they can overpower him with velocity, and will throw him strikes and allow him to put the ball in play and take their chances on the batted ball finding an infielder's glove. The 50-point drop in BABIP last year resulted in his lowest mark in that category since the 2013 season. The dual eligibility is nice for 2019, but the addition of Mallex Smith to the lineup could force Gordon's impatience down to the very bottom of the lineup, if he even remains in Seattle.
Gordon has been at one extreme or another over the past five seasons as he has stolen either close to 60 bases in a season, or 30. Last year was one of those down years and it marked the second time in three seasons he stole 30. Thirty is the new 60 in terms of the running game league-wide, but nobody who drafted Gordon as highly as they did last year projected him for 30 bases. The main culprit in the reduction of his running was an anemic 2% walk rate. Pitchers know they can overpower him with velocity, and will throw him strikes and allow him to put the ball in play and take their chances on the batted ball finding an infielder's glove. The 50-point drop in BABIP last year resulted in his lowest mark in that category since the 2013 season. The dual eligibility is nice for 2019, but the addition of Mallex Smith to the lineup could force Gordon's impatience down to the very bottom of the lineup, if he even remains in Seattle.
PHI (2B)
G
149
AB
564
AVG
.271
HR
14
RBI
48
SB
18
R
85
Hernandez's batted-ball profile started to resemble that of a power hitter in 2018, as he raised his flyball rate from 24.6% to 33.6% and increased his pull rate from 35.8% to 40.3%. However, it's probably unwise to read too much of his underlying numbers after it came to light that he played most of the second half with a broken foot. He had a career-high 13.4% walk rate but also a 21.9% strikeout rate that represented his highest mark since his small-sample 2014 season. The end result was a career-best 15 homers but a drop in all three slash categories to .253/.356/.362, good for a league-average 100 wRC+, and only five steals after he suffered the foot injury July 20. The dream scenario for Hernandez in 2019 would see him hold onto his power gains while regaining his solid batting average and some stolen bases with improved health.
Hernandez's batted-ball profile started to resemble that of a power hitter in 2018, as he raised his flyball rate from 24.6% to 33.6% and increased his pull rate from 35.8% to 40.3%. However, it's probably unwise to read too much of his underlying numbers after it came to light that he played most of the second half with a broken foot. He had a career-high 13.4% walk rate but also a 21.9% strikeout rate that represented his highest mark since his small-sample 2014 season. The end result was a career-best 15 homers but a drop in all three slash categories to .253/.356/.362, good for a league-average 100 wRC+, and only five steals after he suffered the foot injury July 20. The dream scenario for Hernandez in 2019 would see him hold onto his power gains while regaining his solid batting average and some stolen bases with improved health.
DET (2B)
G
144
AB
500
AVG
.254
HR
17
RBI
65
SB
14
R
66
In what was a bleak year for the Tigers, Goodrum was a relative bright spot. Inked to a minor-league contract last winter, Goodrum impressed enough in camp to crack the Opening Day roster. He saw only sporadic at-bats initially but was playing every day by June and ended up finishing top three on the team in runs, home runs and stolen bases. The switch hitter did most of his damage from the left side of the plate, slashing .303/.371/.412 against left-handed pitching compared to just .225/.294/.440 against righties. Goodrum walked at a solid 8.5% clip but gave a lot of that real-world value back by failing to put the ball in play in more than a quarter of his plate appearances (26.8 K%). He may not be a particularly good player, but this is fantasy, not reality, and opportunity drives value in our game. It looks like Goodrum will have a chance to play regularly for the rebuilding Tigers to start the year.
In what was a bleak year for the Tigers, Goodrum was a relative bright spot. Inked to a minor-league contract last winter, Goodrum impressed enough in camp to crack the Opening Day roster. He saw only sporadic at-bats initially but was playing every day by June and ended up finishing top three on the team in runs, home runs and stolen bases. The switch hitter did most of his damage from the left side of the plate, slashing .303/.371/.412 against left-handed pitching compared to just .225/.294/.440 against righties. Goodrum walked at a solid 8.5% clip but gave a lot of that real-world value back by failing to put the ball in play in more than a quarter of his plate appearances (26.8 K%). He may not be a particularly good player, but this is fantasy, not reality, and opportunity drives value in our game. It looks like Goodrum will have a chance to play regularly for the rebuilding Tigers to start the year.
WAS (2B)
G
150
AB
537
AVG
.225
HR
21
RBI
68
SB
12
R
76
Dozier had a slow start with a .217 average and .689 OPS through June. With the Twins falling out of contention, he was traded to the Dodgers at the end of July. He shuffled in and out of the lineup, finishing with just a .182 average and .650 OPS in the NL. Despite his poor numbers, it's hard to find much of a drop-off in his advanced metrics. Dozier had nearly identical strikeout rates and hard-hit rates. He still draws walks at a good clip (11.1%) and still has above-average power for a middle infielder (21 home runs). Dozier is a subpar defensive second baseman (despite a 2017 Gold Glove), and ultimately was forced to settle for a one-year, $9 million deal with the Nationals in free agency. It was only two years ago he was among the elite power sources at his position and he has stolen 12-plus bases every year since 2013, so a bounce-back is possible at 31 with ample playing time in Washington.
Dozier had a slow start with a .217 average and .689 OPS through June. With the Twins falling out of contention, he was traded to the Dodgers at the end of July. He shuffled in and out of the lineup, finishing with just a .182 average and .650 OPS in the NL. Despite his poor numbers, it's hard to find much of a drop-off in his advanced metrics. Dozier had nearly identical strikeout rates and hard-hit rates. He still draws walks at a good clip (11.1%) and still has above-average power for a middle infielder (21 home runs). Dozier is a subpar defensive second baseman (despite a 2017 Gold Glove), and ultimately was forced to settle for a one-year, $9 million deal with the Nationals in free agency. It was only two years ago he was among the elite power sources at his position and he has stolen 12-plus bases every year since 2013, so a bounce-back is possible at 31 with ample playing time in Washington.
TB (2B)
G
150
AB
448
AVG
.272
HR
24
RBI
59
SB
6
R
61
It's difficult to make heads or tails of Lowe. He totaled 28 homers and posted wRC+ marks of 156 and 178 at Double-A and Triple-A, respectively, last season. Lowe was also 13% better than league average, offensively, in his first foray into the major leagues. However, he was relatively old for those levels in the minors and had a 25.7% strikeout rate in the big leagues. Statcast suggests he was a .220-ish hitter. His 77.4% zone-contact rate was way below league average and is a red flag looking ahead to 2019 and beyond. There is some speed here to go along with the pop, and Lowe has shown that he will accept his walks. After the Rays traded Mallex Smith, general manager Erik Neander said publicly that Lowe will be in the mix for a spot on the Opening Day roster, but a starting spot seems unlikely barring multiple injuries in front of him on the depth chart.
It's difficult to make heads or tails of Lowe. He totaled 28 homers and posted wRC+ marks of 156 and 178 at Double-A and Triple-A, respectively, last season. Lowe was also 13% better than league average, offensively, in his first foray into the major leagues. However, he was relatively old for those levels in the minors and had a 25.7% strikeout rate in the big leagues. Statcast suggests he was a .220-ish hitter. His 77.4% zone-contact rate was way below league average and is a red flag looking ahead to 2019 and beyond. There is some speed here to go along with the pop, and Lowe has shown that he will accept his walks. After the Rays traded Mallex Smith, general manager Erik Neander said publicly that Lowe will be in the mix for a spot on the Opening Day roster, but a starting spot seems unlikely barring multiple injuries in front of him on the depth chart.
PIT (2B)
G
155
AB
527
AVG
.271
HR
14
RBI
59
SB
6
R
86
Frazier showed two abilities in the minor leagues: strong bat-to-ball skills and a willingness to steal bases. The latter was on display in 2017, but disappeared in 2018 despite nearly identical on-base percentages and batting averages. The disappointment in steals was offset by a gain in his power, as he had the first double-digit homer season of his professional career. He doubled his home-run-to-flyball ratio despite little change in his average exit velocity or launch angle. Statcast data shows that his 2018 numbers overachieved based on the quality of his contact, so a repeat of the double-digit homer total seems unlikely. Perhaps fewer home runs will lead him to attempt more steals in 2019, but this is otherwise a compiler skill set -- a player who gives you some contributions across the board but not enough in any one category to push the needle. There's some additional value in his positional flexibility.
Frazier showed two abilities in the minor leagues: strong bat-to-ball skills and a willingness to steal bases. The latter was on display in 2017, but disappeared in 2018 despite nearly identical on-base percentages and batting averages. The disappointment in steals was offset by a gain in his power, as he had the first double-digit homer season of his professional career. He doubled his home-run-to-flyball ratio despite little change in his average exit velocity or launch angle. Statcast data shows that his 2018 numbers overachieved based on the quality of his contact, so a repeat of the double-digit homer total seems unlikely. Perhaps fewer home runs will lead him to attempt more steals in 2019, but this is otherwise a compiler skill set -- a player who gives you some contributions across the board but not enough in any one category to push the needle. There's some additional value in his positional flexibility.
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COL (3B)
G
158
AB
604
AVG
.300
HR
39
RBI
115
SB
1
R
101
With nothing worse than 37 home runs, 110 RBI, 104 runs or a .287 average in the past four seasons, Arenado is one of the more bankable four-category pillars around. A 20-RBI downturn was the main culprit behind Arenado finishing a tick below the elite fantasy hitters last season, but a return to the top-five ranks in his age-28 campaign is feasible in light of his favorable home park and sound health record. Coming off a postseason berth, the Rockies could look to supplement an offense that ranked 25th in the majors in wRC+ (87), which would stave off any further downturn in Arenado's run and RBI counts. Arenado would help his own cause with some slight improvement against same-handed pitching (.267/.339/.483 line in 2018), but even that probably won't be necessary for him to meet his draft-day price given his unparalleled excellence versus lefties (an MLB-best 207 wRC+ the past two seasons) and otherworldly production at Coors Field.
With nothing worse than 37 home runs, 110 RBI, 104 runs or a .287 average in the past four seasons, Arenado is one of the more bankable four-category pillars around. A 20-RBI downturn was the main culprit behind Arenado finishing a tick below the elite fantasy hitters last season, but a return to the top-five ranks in his age-28 campaign is feasible in light of his favorable home park and sound health record. Coming off a postseason berth, the Rockies could look to supplement an offense that ranked 25th in the majors in wRC+ (87), which would stave off any further downturn in Arenado's run and RBI counts. Arenado would help his own cause with some slight improvement against same-handed pitching (.267/.339/.483 line in 2018), but even that probably won't be necessary for him to meet his draft-day price given his unparalleled excellence versus lefties (an MLB-best 207 wRC+ the past two seasons) and otherworldly production at Coors Field.
CLE (3B)
G
154
AB
581
AVG
.272
HR
32
RBI
96
SB
24
R
99
At the end of July, Ramirez was fantasy's most valuable player, having hit .298/.408/.630 with 32 home runs and 25 stolen bases through 105 games. Ramirez then limped to a .210/.343/.387 line with seven homers and nine steals over his final 52 regular-season games. So, how much do we downgrade him because of that late slide? Per Statcast, Ramirez had a .209 xBA, .339 xSLG and 87.3 mph average exit velocity over the final two months, so it wasn't just all bad luck. His average flyball distance was also down to 181 feet down the stretch (203 feet over the first four months). The final numbers were still elite, but given the caliber of talent in the game today, it's not unreasonable to think Ramirez, a top-five overall earner in 2018, should perhaps fall closer to the 1-2 turn in mixed leagues.
At the end of July, Ramirez was fantasy's most valuable player, having hit .298/.408/.630 with 32 home runs and 25 stolen bases through 105 games. Ramirez then limped to a .210/.343/.387 line with seven homers and nine steals over his final 52 regular-season games. So, how much do we downgrade him because of that late slide? Per Statcast, Ramirez had a .209 xBA, .339 xSLG and 87.3 mph average exit velocity over the final two months, so it wasn't just all bad luck. His average flyball distance was also down to 181 feet down the stretch (203 feet over the first four months). The final numbers were still elite, but given the caliber of talent in the game today, it's not unreasonable to think Ramirez, a top-five overall earner in 2018, should perhaps fall closer to the 1-2 turn in mixed leagues.
CHC (3B)
G
153
AB
580
AVG
.288
HR
30
RBI
88
SB
5
R
104
Bryant hit .280/.383/.481 with nine home runs up until Father's Day before hitting the disabled list for the first time with a left shoulder injury that never really went away. The front shoulder is necessary for the extension on a swing that helps a hitter drive through the baseball and provide the distance sluggers need, and it was clearly a challenge for Bryant to do what he had done the previous two seasons. He hit .256/.356/.416 the rest of the season, with four home runs. All in all, the bum ball and socket joint shoulders (ahem) most of the blame for the drop in production, but leaves fantasy owners in a conundrum for 2019 drafts. This could be another Matt Carpenter situation where injury uncertainty leads to a drop in draft-day price and early production that evolves into a MVP-caliber season. It could also lead to a repeat of 2018. Either way, it is unlikely many are going to take Bryan in the top 15 this time around.
Bryant hit .280/.383/.481 with nine home runs up until Father's Day before hitting the disabled list for the first time with a left shoulder injury that never really went away. The front shoulder is necessary for the extension on a swing that helps a hitter drive through the baseball and provide the distance sluggers need, and it was clearly a challenge for Bryant to do what he had done the previous two seasons. He hit .256/.356/.416 the rest of the season, with four home runs. All in all, the bum ball and socket joint shoulders (ahem) most of the blame for the drop in production, but leaves fantasy owners in a conundrum for 2019 drafts. This could be another Matt Carpenter situation where injury uncertainty leads to a drop in draft-day price and early production that evolves into a MVP-caliber season. It could also lead to a repeat of 2018. Either way, it is unlikely many are going to take Bryan in the top 15 this time around.
WAS (3B)
G
152
AB
555
AVG
.295
HR
26
RBI
98
SB
3
R
93
Simply put, Rendon is a beast. Last year marked the second consecutive season in which he was 40% better than the league average, offensively, as he hit 40-plus doubles, 24-plus homers and had 180 runs-plus-RBI yet again. The health issues he had earlier in his career are mostly a thing of the past, but he has still had one thing or another put him on the disabled list for short stints each of the past two seasons. It would be nice if he could get over 30 homers, but not if it comes at the expense of batting average. He piles up the extra-base hits with hard contact and a consistent launch angle, and the data does not show any type of trend that suggests that's changing any time soon. Some variance in his HR/FB rate could lead to a huge year at some point. Rendon should not make it to the fifth round of your draft. If he does, grab him and hold onto him tightly.
Simply put, Rendon is a beast. Last year marked the second consecutive season in which he was 40% better than the league average, offensively, as he hit 40-plus doubles, 24-plus homers and had 180 runs-plus-RBI yet again. The health issues he had earlier in his career are mostly a thing of the past, but he has still had one thing or another put him on the disabled list for short stints each of the past two seasons. It would be nice if he could get over 30 homers, but not if it comes at the expense of batting average. He piles up the extra-base hits with hard contact and a consistent launch angle, and the data does not show any type of trend that suggests that's changing any time soon. Some variance in his HR/FB rate could lead to a huge year at some point. Rendon should not make it to the fifth round of your draft. If he does, grab him and hold onto him tightly.
CIN (3B)
G
150
AB
536
AVG
.269
HR
32
RBI
99
SB
3
R
82
As was the case with teammate Scooter Gennett, we asked whether Suarez could build off a 2017 season where he improved across the board. Like Gennett, Suarez not only answered in the affirmative, but he improved in most aspects at the plate, tallying career highs in HR, AVG, SLG and ISO. His 48.6% hard-hit rate ranked third in MLB and his 8.4% soft-hit rate was the bottom mark among qualified hitters. This should help negate concerns over his HR/FB jumping from 17.9% to 23.4%. The seven-year, $66 million contract extension he got from the Reds before the 2018 season seems like a bargain now. His 11 steals in 2016 were a complete outlier, and a bad back that hampered him in the second half (.245/.322/.463) bears watching. Even so, he has logged over 600 PA in three straight seasons. This is a middle-of-the-order hitter in an improving lineup who is right in the middle of his prime -- he is entering his age-27/28 season.
As was the case with teammate Scooter Gennett, we asked whether Suarez could build off a 2017 season where he improved across the board. Like Gennett, Suarez not only answered in the affirmative, but he improved in most aspects at the plate, tallying career highs in HR, AVG, SLG and ISO. His 48.6% hard-hit rate ranked third in MLB and his 8.4% soft-hit rate was the bottom mark among qualified hitters. This should help negate concerns over his HR/FB jumping from 17.9% to 23.4%. The seven-year, $66 million contract extension he got from the Reds before the 2018 season seems like a bargain now. His 11 steals in 2016 were a complete outlier, and a bad back that hampered him in the second half (.245/.322/.463) bears watching. Even so, he has logged over 600 PA in three straight seasons. This is a middle-of-the-order hitter in an improving lineup who is right in the middle of his prime -- he is entering his age-27/28 season.
SD (3B)
G
151
AB
544
AVG
.256
HR
24
RBI
81
SB
22
R
79
Myers had a 2018 season filled with injury, from an early oblique issue to a foot problem, and even had a batting practice ball hit him in the face at one point in the season. Around the injuries, he was right in line with his advanced offensive numbers from the 2017 season, albeit in 300 fewer plate appearances. Despite the injuries, Myers had a 90.3 mph average exit velocity in 2018, his highest mark since such data has been made publicly available. His average launch angle dropped from 15 degrees in 2017 to 9 degrees in 2018, yet he was able to maintain his 18% home-run-to-flyball ratio. The issue is not hard contact, as he makes plenty of that, but that he did not hit as many flyballs last year. The injuries can certainly be blamed for part of that, and him getting back to lofting as he did in 2017 could get him back to the levels of run production we saw in 2016 and 2017. With better health, the steals should return as well.
Myers had a 2018 season filled with injury, from an early oblique issue to a foot problem, and even had a batting practice ball hit him in the face at one point in the season. Around the injuries, he was right in line with his advanced offensive numbers from the 2017 season, albeit in 300 fewer plate appearances. Despite the injuries, Myers had a 90.3 mph average exit velocity in 2018, his highest mark since such data has been made publicly available. His average launch angle dropped from 15 degrees in 2017 to 9 degrees in 2018, yet he was able to maintain his 18% home-run-to-flyball ratio. The issue is not hard contact, as he makes plenty of that, but that he did not hit as many flyballs last year. The injuries can certainly be blamed for part of that, and him getting back to lofting as he did in 2017 could get him back to the levels of run production we saw in 2016 and 2017. With better health, the steals should return as well.
OAK (3B)
G
157
AB
583
AVG
.261
HR
30
RBI
82
SB
2
R
100
One of the league's best defenders, Chapman built on the offensive skills he teased during his 84-game big-league debut in 2017, increasing his batting average, OBP and SLG all by at least 30 points. He cut his K% from 28.2 to 23.7 and maintained a walk rate above 9%. While hitting second for his final 57 games of the season, he rolled to the tune of a .294/.354/.563 line over 254 plate appearances. Chapman held several prominent spots on the 2018 Statcast leaderboards, highlighted by an eighth-place finish in average exit velocity (93.0 mph). He underwent left thumb surgery in October and shoulder surgery in December, but the expectation is that he will be fine for spring training. As long as his March tune-ups look normal, Chapman should end up a bargain in mixed leagues, but expect the price to climb in AL-only, where playing time with Chapman's stability will command a surcharge.
One of the league's best defenders, Chapman built on the offensive skills he teased during his 84-game big-league debut in 2017, increasing his batting average, OBP and SLG all by at least 30 points. He cut his K% from 28.2 to 23.7 and maintained a walk rate above 9%. While hitting second for his final 57 games of the season, he rolled to the tune of a .294/.354/.563 line over 254 plate appearances. Chapman held several prominent spots on the 2018 Statcast leaderboards, highlighted by an eighth-place finish in average exit velocity (93.0 mph). He underwent left thumb surgery in October and shoulder surgery in December, but the expectation is that he will be fine for spring training. As long as his March tune-ups look normal, Chapman should end up a bargain in mixed leagues, but expect the price to climb in AL-only, where playing time with Chapman's stability will command a surcharge.
G
130
AB
462
AVG
.305
HR
22
RBI
90
SB
3
R
77
It has become an annual tradition for there to be a line in the sand, where fantasy analysts argue over whether the top prospect in baseball is worth his draft price. Of course, not all No. 1 prospects are created equal. In this case, the best hitting prospect in a generation is set to debut in mid-to-late April. He will be a second-round pick in some redraft leagues. Believers are paying up while doubters decry that anyone who pays that price is banking on the best-case scenario. It is widely accepted that Guerrero has an 80-grade hit tool. Scouts go years without bestowing that on a prospect, and some refuse to do so out of principle. He has at least 70-grade raw power, generating elite exit velocities in the Arizona Fall League. With all this in mind, nobody should be surprised if Guerrero hits well over .300 with 25-plus home runs in his MLB debut. He has a thick lower half and figures to eventually move off third base to first base or designated hitter.
It has become an annual tradition for there to be a line in the sand, where fantasy analysts argue over whether the top prospect in baseball is worth his draft price. Of course, not all No. 1 prospects are created equal. In this case, the best hitting prospect in a generation is set to debut in mid-to-late April. He will be a second-round pick in some redraft leagues. Believers are paying up while doubters decry that anyone who pays that price is banking on the best-case scenario. It is widely accepted that Guerrero has an 80-grade hit tool. Scouts go years without bestowing that on a prospect, and some refuse to do so out of principle. He has at least 70-grade raw power, generating elite exit velocities in the Arizona Fall League. With all this in mind, nobody should be surprised if Guerrero hits well over .300 with 25-plus home runs in his MLB debut. He has a thick lower half and figures to eventually move off third base to first base or designated hitter.
LAD (3B)
G
141
AB
488
AVG
.307
HR
22
RBI
85
SB
4
R
75
Turner has often been nicked up the past two seasons, but the 34-year-old has shown little evidence of decline when he's been on the field. Turner's plate approach remains exceptional, as he's ranked in the top 10 in both BB/K and contact rate among all hitters with at least 400 plate appearances since 2017. Although a wrist issue was the major culprit for his low games total in 2018, Turner's power didn't suffer as a result. He posted a career-best 45% hard-hit rate last season and finished 15th among all qualified hitters in average flyball distance, per Statcast. While the slew of injuries he's endured in recent years could eventually take their toll, Turner at least enters 2019 with his health intact. The usual caveats apply in offsetting a player of his ilk with the appropriate amount of safety, but if Turner can merely re-emerge as the 130-game player he was in 2017, he should contend for a top-10 finish among fantasy third basemen.
Turner has often been nicked up the past two seasons, but the 34-year-old has shown little evidence of decline when he's been on the field. Turner's plate approach remains exceptional, as he's ranked in the top 10 in both BB/K and contact rate among all hitters with at least 400 plate appearances since 2017. Although a wrist issue was the major culprit for his low games total in 2018, Turner's power didn't suffer as a result. He posted a career-best 45% hard-hit rate last season and finished 15th among all qualified hitters in average flyball distance, per Statcast. While the slew of injuries he's endured in recent years could eventually take their toll, Turner at least enters 2019 with his health intact. The usual caveats apply in offsetting a player of his ilk with the appropriate amount of safety, but if Turner can merely re-emerge as the 130-game player he was in 2017, he should contend for a top-10 finish among fantasy third basemen.
ATL (3B)
G
135
AB
503
AVG
.264
HR
29
RBI
88
SB
0
R
85
Donaldson finished as one of 2018's biggest busts. In his age-32 season, he missed 18 games with shoulder inflammation (which hindered throws from third base) before a calf injury sidelined him from May 28 to Sept. 11 -- he returned to major-league competition days after Toronto traded him to Cleveland. His contact percentage tanked while his Statcast barrel rate dropped from a handy 8.7% in 2017 to a worrisome 6.4%. Keep in mind, however, that he's just one season removed from a .944 OPS, 33-homer effort. Further, he still walked in 14.2% of his plate appearances last year and rattled off a .396 wOBA in 60 September plate appearances. The Bringer of Rain landed with the Braves on a one-year deal in November, and while that means he won't have the luxury of DHing on occasion, he will be hitting in the heart of a strong lineup. Just plan for more off days than most heart-of-the-order bats if you target him as a bargain run producer.
Donaldson finished as one of 2018's biggest busts. In his age-32 season, he missed 18 games with shoulder inflammation (which hindered throws from third base) before a calf injury sidelined him from May 28 to Sept. 11 -- he returned to major-league competition days after Toronto traded him to Cleveland. His contact percentage tanked while his Statcast barrel rate dropped from a handy 8.7% in 2017 to a worrisome 6.4%. Keep in mind, however, that he's just one season removed from a .944 OPS, 33-homer effort. Further, he still walked in 14.2% of his plate appearances last year and rattled off a .396 wOBA in 60 September plate appearances. The Bringer of Rain landed with the Braves on a one-year deal in November, and while that means he won't have the luxury of DHing on occasion, he will be hitting in the heart of a strong lineup. Just plan for more off days than most heart-of-the-order bats if you target him as a bargain run producer.
BOS (3B)
G
153
AB
576
AVG
.264
HR
25
RBI
86
SB
7
R
80
Devers celebrated his 22nd birthday during Game 2 of the 2018 World Series, when many prospects are resting after their Triple-A campaign, so there's plenty of time to improve in deficient areas. Devers' ability to handle velocity and hang in against southpaws heads his skill set. He needs to work on consistency at the dish and in the field, but that should come with experience. Once Boston handed him the reins at the hot corner in the playoffs, his defense rose to the occasion. Contact is Devers' biggest batting woe. His 6.1% Barrels/PA was 91st in the league, impressive for his age. His .281 BABIP seems low according to Statcast data, though his line-drive rate was below average. Still, positive regression is likely. His second-half hamstring issues shouldn't be much of a concern after his playoff performance. Be aggressive but not overly so as Devers may still sit against some lefties. The long-term upside as a perennial All-Star is still on course.
Devers celebrated his 22nd birthday during Game 2 of the 2018 World Series, when many prospects are resting after their Triple-A campaign, so there's plenty of time to improve in deficient areas. Devers' ability to handle velocity and hang in against southpaws heads his skill set. He needs to work on consistency at the dish and in the field, but that should come with experience. Once Boston handed him the reins at the hot corner in the playoffs, his defense rose to the occasion. Contact is Devers' biggest batting woe. His 6.1% Barrels/PA was 91st in the league, impressive for his age. His .281 BABIP seems low according to Statcast data, though his line-drive rate was below average. Still, positive regression is likely. His second-half hamstring issues shouldn't be much of a concern after his playoff performance. Be aggressive but not overly so as Devers may still sit against some lefties. The long-term upside as a perennial All-Star is still on course.
MIL (3B)
G
149
AB
561
AVG
.260
HR
30
RBI
89
SB
2
R
70
After spending the first 11 seasons of his professional career in the Royals' organization, Moustakas was traded to the Brewers at last year's trade deadline. Milwaukee moved Travis Shaw to second base to accommodate Moustakas, and he served as the team's regular third baseman the rest of the way. Moustakas' batting average fell right in line with his career mark, but he set a new career high for RBI in a season and just missed hitting the 30-home-run plateau. Moustakas makes enough contact to overcome a low walk rate, though this will be his age-30 season, and most of his rate stats did fall off quite a bit last year. A free agent at press time, he figures to be signed to start somewhere, but if his pop continues to fall off, his fantasy value will do the same.
After spending the first 11 seasons of his professional career in the Royals' organization, Moustakas was traded to the Brewers at last year's trade deadline. Milwaukee moved Travis Shaw to second base to accommodate Moustakas, and he served as the team's regular third baseman the rest of the way. Moustakas' batting average fell right in line with his career mark, but he set a new career high for RBI in a season and just missed hitting the 30-home-run plateau. Moustakas makes enough contact to overcome a low walk rate, though this will be his age-30 season, and most of his rate stats did fall off quite a bit last year. A free agent at press time, he figures to be signed to start somewhere, but if his pop continues to fall off, his fantasy value will do the same.
ARI (3B)
IL-10
G
123
AB
443
AVG
.242
HR
21
RBI
79
SB
2
R
72
Lamb's season ended on July 26 after he injured his shoulder making a tough catch of a foul pop while running from the shortstop area as he was in a shifted position with Cody Bellinger at the plate. It was the second such time Lamb injured his shoulder making a diving catch, but this one needed surgery to correct. Lamb's season was incredibly disappointing after his big 2017 season, and a barking shoulder was a significant contributing factor. He had four home runs over the first two weeks of June and just two the rest of the time he played. Lamb continues to struggle against lefties and is best left on the bench anytime a southpaw is on the mound. Even the numbers against righties suffered a noticeable drop off. Lamb earned the nickname "Rake" for a reason, and we cannot discount 2016 and 2017 with recency bias. If the shoulder is healthy, the gardening can resume.
Lamb's season ended on July 26 after he injured his shoulder making a tough catch of a foul pop while running from the shortstop area as he was in a shifted position with Cody Bellinger at the plate. It was the second such time Lamb injured his shoulder making a diving catch, but this one needed surgery to correct. Lamb's season was incredibly disappointing after his big 2017 season, and a barking shoulder was a significant contributing factor. He had four home runs over the first two weeks of June and just two the rest of the time he played. Lamb continues to struggle against lefties and is best left on the bench anytime a southpaw is on the mound. Even the numbers against righties suffered a noticeable drop off. Lamb earned the nickname "Rake" for a reason, and we cannot discount 2016 and 2017 with recency bias. If the shoulder is healthy, the gardening can resume.
PHI (3B)
G
140
AB
478
AVG
.266
HR
25
RBI
73
SB
0
R
58
Franco probably saved his Phillies career (and his future as a major-league starter) with a midseason hot streak. After opening the year hitting just .240/.284/.409 through his first 63 games, he hit .298/.342/.520 the rest of the way, finishing with a .270/.314/.467 line and 22 homers in 465 plate appearances. That level of performance isn't too surprising and could well be sustainable, as he flashed similar numbers in his rookie campaign back in 2015 before two straight disappointing years. A full season of similar production would look a whole lot like what Miguel Andujar did in 2018 and make Franco a solid mid-tier fantasy starter. Of course, he's never actually hit like that over a full season (he played in just 80 games in his rookie year), so he'll deservedly come at a much cheaper price due to legitimate fears that he could regress toward the player he was in the first part of 2018 and the two years prior.
Franco probably saved his Phillies career (and his future as a major-league starter) with a midseason hot streak. After opening the year hitting just .240/.284/.409 through his first 63 games, he hit .298/.342/.520 the rest of the way, finishing with a .270/.314/.467 line and 22 homers in 465 plate appearances. That level of performance isn't too surprising and could well be sustainable, as he flashed similar numbers in his rookie campaign back in 2015 before two straight disappointing years. A full season of similar production would look a whole lot like what Miguel Andujar did in 2018 and make Franco a solid mid-tier fantasy starter. Of course, he's never actually hit like that over a full season (he played in just 80 games in his rookie year), so he'll deservedly come at a much cheaper price due to legitimate fears that he could regress toward the player he was in the first part of 2018 and the two years prior.
PIT (3B)
IL-10
G
125
AB
403
AVG
.261
HR
21
RBI
71
SB
3
R
57
After a tumultuous 2017, Kang had his eyes on a return to MLB during the 2018 season. However, he needed to obtain a work visa first, something that proved to be a bit difficult due to his off-field troubles. The Korean infielder didn't receive his visa until late April, setting him behind the rest of the team even after he participated in the Dominican Winter League. He began playing for Pirates minor-league affiliates in early June, putting him in a position for a big-league callup before a wrist injury struck. He wound up requiring surgery and didn't get back to the majors until the final three days of the season, going 2-for-6. Kang has the ability to play third base and shortstop as needed, and his bat is good enough to warrant some attention. However, it seems like he's destined to fill a short-side platoon role alongside Colin Moran at third base in 2019, limiting his fantasy appeal significantly.
After a tumultuous 2017, Kang had his eyes on a return to MLB during the 2018 season. However, he needed to obtain a work visa first, something that proved to be a bit difficult due to his off-field troubles. The Korean infielder didn't receive his visa until late April, setting him behind the rest of the team even after he participated in the Dominican Winter League. He began playing for Pirates minor-league affiliates in early June, putting him in a position for a big-league callup before a wrist injury struck. He wound up requiring surgery and didn't get back to the majors until the final three days of the season, going 2-for-6. Kang has the ability to play third base and shortstop as needed, and his bat is good enough to warrant some attention. However, it seems like he's destined to fill a short-side platoon role alongside Colin Moran at third base in 2019, limiting his fantasy appeal significantly.
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SD (SS)
G
158
AB
633
AVG
.289
HR
36
RBI
103
SB
12
R
90
It’s rare a superstar hits free agency entering his age-26 season, but that’s what happens when you debut at 19. Machado is coming off arguably his best year as he exhibited above-average-to-elite skills across the board. He set new career best levels in contact and walk rate, contributing to new personal highs in average, homers and RBI. Plus, Machado returned to swiping double-digit bases with his best ever success rate. Much has been made of Machado’s “Johnny Hustle” comment and the ensuing backtrack clarification, but missing only 11 games over the past four campaigns, including playing all 162 in 2015 and 2018, speaks volumes. It’s no secret the defensive metrics rank him as one of the best at the hot corner but below average at shortstop. For fantasy, it doesn’t matter, though he’s lost dual eligibility, entering 2019 as shortstop only. Machado has it all: durability, elite skills and youth. Ignore the rest. He’s one of the top players in the game.
It’s rare a superstar hits free agency entering his age-26 season, but that’s what happens when you debut at 19. Machado is coming off arguably his best year as he exhibited above-average-to-elite skills across the board. He set new career best levels in contact and walk rate, contributing to new personal highs in average, homers and RBI. Plus, Machado returned to swiping double-digit bases with his best ever success rate. Much has been made of Machado’s “Johnny Hustle” comment and the ensuing backtrack clarification, but missing only 11 games over the past four campaigns, including playing all 162 in 2015 and 2018, speaks volumes. It’s no secret the defensive metrics rank him as one of the best at the hot corner but below average at shortstop. For fantasy, it doesn’t matter, though he’s lost dual eligibility, entering 2019 as shortstop only. Machado has it all: durability, elite skills and youth. Ignore the rest. He’s one of the top players in the game.
CLE (SS)
G
150
AB
614
AVG
.285
HR
33
RBI
86
SB
17
R
105
Lindor has three full seasons in the majors, and has shown linear statistical improvement in nearly every category. In each of the past three seasons, his home runs, slugging percentage and RBI have increased year over year while his runs went from repeating to surging last season. He has shown a willingness to take his walks (9.4 BB%) and he puts bat to ball with consistency (14.4 K%). Lindor, teammate Jose Ramirez, Robinson Cano, and Nolan Arenado are the only players in recent seasons with at least 35 home runs and a strikeout rate no higher than 15%. His stolen-base attempts jumped from 18 in 2017 to 35 last season, but his success rate took a dive as he was caught 10 times, which may limit his ability to join Ramirez in the 30-30 club. The tools are all here for another outstanding offensive season even if continuing the statistical linear growth looks rather impossible given the level he has already achieved before his 25th birthday.
Lindor has three full seasons in the majors, and has shown linear statistical improvement in nearly every category. In each of the past three seasons, his home runs, slugging percentage and RBI have increased year over year while his runs went from repeating to surging last season. He has shown a willingness to take his walks (9.4 BB%) and he puts bat to ball with consistency (14.4 K%). Lindor, teammate Jose Ramirez, Robinson Cano, and Nolan Arenado are the only players in recent seasons with at least 35 home runs and a strikeout rate no higher than 15%. His stolen-base attempts jumped from 18 in 2017 to 35 last season, but his success rate took a dive as he was caught 10 times, which may limit his ability to join Ramirez in the 30-30 club. The tools are all here for another outstanding offensive season even if continuing the statistical linear growth looks rather impossible given the level he has already achieved before his 25th birthday.
HOU (SS)
G
150
AB
560
AVG
.286
HR
29
RBI
101
SB
10
R
105
Bregman's coming-out party in the 2017 World Series may have moved his draft-day price to an uncomfortable level, but he rewarded investors by blossoming into one of the sport's top hitters. A more selective approach has been the key, as he bumped his BB/K from 0.29 to 1.13 in the span of two years. Bregman made the most of the contact gains, too, raising his ISO by 55 points en route to a 31-homer campaign. While Bregman lost out on some steals, he was still an asset on the bases with 10 thefts, atoning for the decline there with big outputs in the other major counting categories. The year-to-year growth he's already shown makes it tough to bank on Bregman reaching another level, but his age and the support of a stacked lineup at least make it a possibility. He underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow in January and is expected to be limited at the start of spring training, potentially pushing him out of the first round.
Bregman's coming-out party in the 2017 World Series may have moved his draft-day price to an uncomfortable level, but he rewarded investors by blossoming into one of the sport's top hitters. A more selective approach has been the key, as he bumped his BB/K from 0.29 to 1.13 in the span of two years. Bregman made the most of the contact gains, too, raising his ISO by 55 points en route to a 31-homer campaign. While Bregman lost out on some steals, he was still an asset on the bases with 10 thefts, atoning for the decline there with big outputs in the other major counting categories. The year-to-year growth he's already shown makes it tough to bank on Bregman reaching another level, but his age and the support of a stacked lineup at least make it a possibility. He underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow in January and is expected to be limited at the start of spring training, potentially pushing him out of the first round.
CHC (SS)
DTD
G
155
AB
593
AVG
.282
HR
29
RBI
96
SB
18
R
90
It may have been tough to envision Baez having an MVP-caliber campaign in 2018, but that’s exactly what occurred, as he made major strides in the contact department and finished among the best hitters in fantasy baseball. Mainly a super utility player before last year, Baez played in 160 games and piled up a career-high 606 at-bats. The added opportunities helped him set career bests in every category. His patience actually got worse (5.9 BB% to 4.5 BB%), but he still got to his prodigious power with ease, increasing his extra-base hit total from 49 to 83 while leading the NL in RBI. He was one of five players to hit .290 with 30-plus HR and 20-plus SB. Manager Joe Maddon likes shuffling his infielders, so Baez may not have a regular home on the diamond again in 2019. However, if Addison Russell struggles again, Baez should once again retain eligibility at shortstop in addition to second base. He figures to hold down a regular spot in the middle of the order.
It may have been tough to envision Baez having an MVP-caliber campaign in 2018, but that’s exactly what occurred, as he made major strides in the contact department and finished among the best hitters in fantasy baseball. Mainly a super utility player before last year, Baez played in 160 games and piled up a career-high 606 at-bats. The added opportunities helped him set career bests in every category. His patience actually got worse (5.9 BB% to 4.5 BB%), but he still got to his prodigious power with ease, increasing his extra-base hit total from 49 to 83 while leading the NL in RBI. He was one of five players to hit .290 with 30-plus HR and 20-plus SB. Manager Joe Maddon likes shuffling his infielders, so Baez may not have a regular home on the diamond again in 2019. However, if Addison Russell struggles again, Baez should once again retain eligibility at shortstop in addition to second base. He figures to hold down a regular spot in the middle of the order.
COL (SS)
G
151
AB
567
AVG
.275
HR
31
RBI
98
SB
17
R
88
While 2016 may have been Story's breakout, 2018 was the season everything came together. He hit for a career-high average while greatly reducing his strikeout rate and expanding his power at the plate. The volume of stolen bases was a huge surprise that nobody forecasted in draft season and a bonus. His home-run total went up despite a small drop in his flyball rate. More hard contact allowed his HR/FB to get up to 20% and helped fuel the homer surge. There are two causes for concern moving forward, though: Story had an elbow scare near the end of the season that nearly put him on the surgeon's table, so that bears watching. Secondly, he ended the season with a 64-point split between his actual slugging percentage of .567 and his expected slugging percentage (.503). He is more likely to slide back to 30 homers than to challenge for 40 in 2019.
While 2016 may have been Story's breakout, 2018 was the season everything came together. He hit for a career-high average while greatly reducing his strikeout rate and expanding his power at the plate. The volume of stolen bases was a huge surprise that nobody forecasted in draft season and a bonus. His home-run total went up despite a small drop in his flyball rate. More hard contact allowed his HR/FB to get up to 20% and helped fuel the homer surge. There are two causes for concern moving forward, though: Story had an elbow scare near the end of the season that nearly put him on the surgeon's table, so that bears watching. Secondly, he ended the season with a 64-point split between his actual slugging percentage of .567 and his expected slugging percentage (.503). He is more likely to slide back to 30 homers than to challenge for 40 in 2019.
CWS (SS)
G
148
AB
571
AVG
.261
HR
25
RBI
79
SB
25
R
85
Was there a quieter 20-20 season than Anderson’s 2018 campaign? Those in on-base or points leagues may disagree considering his .281 OBP but that’s Anderson in a nutshell: the poster boy for better-in-fantasy-than-reality. Since the White Sox don’t care about Anderson’s plate skills, he’ll continue to be a fantasy asset. To be fair, the 25-year-old doubled his walk rate, to a still-poor 5% while lowering his strikeout rate to a career-best 25%. Oddly, Anderson didn’t run from the top of the order, swiping just two bags in 43 games hitting first or second while garnering 24 in 100 games from sixth to ninth. We’re in a golden age of shortstops where Anderson is largely ignored. If you have a solid batting average foundation, Anderson is a great option to boost counting stats on the cheap, with built-in upside if he continues to improve his approach and contact. His run production should also benefit from a maturing While Sox lineup.
Was there a quieter 20-20 season than Anderson’s 2018 campaign? Those in on-base or points leagues may disagree considering his .281 OBP but that’s Anderson in a nutshell: the poster boy for better-in-fantasy-than-reality. Since the White Sox don’t care about Anderson’s plate skills, he’ll continue to be a fantasy asset. To be fair, the 25-year-old doubled his walk rate, to a still-poor 5% while lowering his strikeout rate to a career-best 25%. Oddly, Anderson didn’t run from the top of the order, swiping just two bags in 43 games hitting first or second while garnering 24 in 100 games from sixth to ninth. We’re in a golden age of shortstops where Anderson is largely ignored. If you have a solid batting average foundation, Anderson is a great option to boost counting stats on the cheap, with built-in upside if he continues to improve his approach and contact. His run production should also benefit from a maturing While Sox lineup.
HOU (SS)
G
154
AB
578
AVG
.275
HR
26
RBI
98
SB
6
R
89
For the second consecutive year, Correa's season was abbreviated due to injury. Unlike in 2017, his offensive numbers were not good as the problems with his back and oblique area lingered and affected his performance. A hitter is nothing without a healthy core, and Correa proved that in spades last year as he looked like a shadow of the guy we saw at the plate from 2015-17. The injury issue is present now, and tough to overlook given it has happened in back-to-back seasons, but what should be overlooked is last year’s struggles. Asking a hitter to perform at a high level without his core is like asking a sprinter to excel while running with plantar fasciitis. The down year presents a buying opportunity we have not yet had for Correa as expectations have been high since he came on the scene. Jump back in with both feet and hope he gets back over 600 plate appearances to maximize his earning potential.
For the second consecutive year, Correa's season was abbreviated due to injury. Unlike in 2017, his offensive numbers were not good as the problems with his back and oblique area lingered and affected his performance. A hitter is nothing without a healthy core, and Correa proved that in spades last year as he looked like a shadow of the guy we saw at the plate from 2015-17. The injury issue is present now, and tough to overlook given it has happened in back-to-back seasons, but what should be overlooked is last year’s struggles. Asking a hitter to perform at a high level without his core is like asking a sprinter to excel while running with plantar fasciitis. The down year presents a buying opportunity we have not yet had for Correa as expectations have been high since he came on the scene. Jump back in with both feet and hope he gets back over 600 plate appearances to maximize his earning potential.
WAS (SS)
G
126
AB
500
AVG
.282
HR
15
RBI
67
SB
34
R
85
Those passing on Turner fearing he was an injury risk paid the price last season. He was one of only seven players to appear in 162 games on the way to leading the Senior Circuit with 740 PA. He also paced the NL in pilfers with 43, his second straight season with at least 40. Turner's fantasy allure is steals without sacrificing power -- he set a career high with 19 long balls. He's established a high floor; the question is whether he's worthy of a top-10 pick. Keeping in mind Turner didn't miss a game last season, he finished the season just outside the top-10 overall. As such, he'd need to improve on last season's numbers, which will be a chore considering the huge volume of at-bats. The pathway would be a higher batting average, as last season's .314 BABIP was below his career mark. Still, it's a matter of philosophy and roster construction. Steals are one category, and other first rounders contribute elite production in multiple categories.
Those passing on Turner fearing he was an injury risk paid the price last season. He was one of only seven players to appear in 162 games on the way to leading the Senior Circuit with 740 PA. He also paced the NL in pilfers with 43, his second straight season with at least 40. Turner's fantasy allure is steals without sacrificing power -- he set a career high with 19 long balls. He's established a high floor; the question is whether he's worthy of a top-10 pick. Keeping in mind Turner didn't miss a game last season, he finished the season just outside the top-10 overall. As such, he'd need to improve on last season's numbers, which will be a chore considering the huge volume of at-bats. The pathway would be a higher batting average, as last season's .314 BABIP was below his career mark. Still, it's a matter of philosophy and roster construction. Steals are one category, and other first rounders contribute elite production in multiple categories.
PHI (SS)
G
151
AB
601
AVG
.306
HR
15
RBI
66
SB
22
R
93
Segura put together another quality campaign in 2018, hitting .300 for the third year in a row and just falling short of the career-high 64 RBI he tallied in 2016. He was one of six hitters to hit .300 with 20-plus steals. The Mariners elected to trade him as part of their rebuild -- he will spend 2019 with the Phillies. It remains to be seen where Segura will hit, but chances are he will either lead off or hit second. His stolen-base total dropped for the second year in a row, and he can no longer carry a fantasy team in that category. Segura has hit double-digit home runs in three straight years, and could improve on last year's total in that category (10) with the move to hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park. He will see plenty of at-bats while hitting at or near the top of the order and serving as the Phillies' everyday shortstop. Another season at or above .300 could be in store, as both his contact rate and BB:K improved for the third year in a row.
Segura put together another quality campaign in 2018, hitting .300 for the third year in a row and just falling short of the career-high 64 RBI he tallied in 2016. He was one of six hitters to hit .300 with 20-plus steals. The Mariners elected to trade him as part of their rebuild -- he will spend 2019 with the Phillies. It remains to be seen where Segura will hit, but chances are he will either lead off or hit second. His stolen-base total dropped for the second year in a row, and he can no longer carry a fantasy team in that category. Segura has hit double-digit home runs in three straight years, and could improve on last year's total in that category (10) with the move to hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park. He will see plenty of at-bats while hitting at or near the top of the order and serving as the Phillies' everyday shortstop. Another season at or above .300 could be in store, as both his contact rate and BB:K improved for the third year in a row.
BOS (SS)
G
144
AB
556
AVG
.284
HR
20
RBI
87
SB
11
R
87
Bogaerts benefited from improved health in 2018, though he ended up playing the fewest games in any of his full seasons in the majors. The ankle injury that shelved him for most of April didn’t inhibit him at the plate once he returned, unlike the hand issue that sapped his power in the second half of 2017. While Bogaerts may have scaled back his aggressiveness on the bases, he made up for it by setting new personal bests in home runs and RBI, with the increased slugging output supported by major rises in both his barrel (7.1%) and hard-hit (41.5%) rates. The improved batted-ball profile should provide further reason to invest in Bogaerts with confidence as he enters his age-26 campaign. Even if last year's power gains are more of an outlier, Bogaerts will retain a high floor thanks to his strong contact skills and his slotting in a Boston lineup that brings back most of the core pieces from an offense that led MLB in runs in 2018.
Bogaerts benefited from improved health in 2018, though he ended up playing the fewest games in any of his full seasons in the majors. The ankle injury that shelved him for most of April didn’t inhibit him at the plate once he returned, unlike the hand issue that sapped his power in the second half of 2017. While Bogaerts may have scaled back his aggressiveness on the bases, he made up for it by setting new personal bests in home runs and RBI, with the increased slugging output supported by major rises in both his barrel (7.1%) and hard-hit (41.5%) rates. The improved batted-ball profile should provide further reason to invest in Bogaerts with confidence as he enters his age-26 campaign. Even if last year's power gains are more of an outlier, Bogaerts will retain a high floor thanks to his strong contact skills and his slotting in a Boston lineup that brings back most of the core pieces from an offense that led MLB in runs in 2018.
KC (SS)
G
146
AB
515
AVG
.256
HR
18
RBI
59
SB
43
R
70
Mondesi floundered in his prior big-league cameos and failed to unseat Alcides Escobar for a starting gig last spring, but the Royals held the 23-year-old in high esteem due to his top-flight speed and plus raw power. He rewarded that faith once he resurfaced in the majors in mid-June, racking up 32 steals and 30 extra-base hits in only 75 games. There's no denying Mondesi boasts truly elite tools that compare favorably with any player, but his unrefined plate approach makes the sustainability of his 2018 success more questionable. His free-swinging ways will no doubt ding his outlook in OBP leagues, though there's reason to hope his wheels and loud contact (43.1% hard-hit rate) can prop up his BABIP and in turn batting average. Regardless, it's clear Mondesi backers will have to pay full freight to figure out what happens in 2019, as his huge second half will prompt some to chase the dream of what a full season of production might look like.
Mondesi floundered in his prior big-league cameos and failed to unseat Alcides Escobar for a starting gig last spring, but the Royals held the 23-year-old in high esteem due to his top-flight speed and plus raw power. He rewarded that faith once he resurfaced in the majors in mid-June, racking up 32 steals and 30 extra-base hits in only 75 games. There's no denying Mondesi boasts truly elite tools that compare favorably with any player, but his unrefined plate approach makes the sustainability of his 2018 success more questionable. His free-swinging ways will no doubt ding his outlook in OBP leagues, though there's reason to hope his wheels and loud contact (43.1% hard-hit rate) can prop up his BABIP and in turn batting average. Regardless, it's clear Mondesi backers will have to pay full freight to figure out what happens in 2019, as his huge second half will prompt some to chase the dream of what a full season of production might look like.
NYY (SS)
G
146
AB
526
AVG
.274
HR
24
RBI
88
SB
12
R
73
Torres' lack of impact speed caps his fantasy upside, but make no mistake about it; he's among the most polished young hitters in the game. At the ripe age of 21, Torres was 20% better than league average, even after accounting for park effects. He went on an incredible run shortly after his callup in late April, smacking nine homers over the course of 16 games. Torres ended up missing some time with a hip strain and the numbers really weren't good following his return (.249/.329/.404 in his final 60 regular-season games), but that's not the worst thing in the world for those of us trying to profit in the fantasy game. With a high-pedigree player like Torres, we should expect development and year-over-year improvement, and that late slide figures to keep him cost-effective in 2019. Look for him to primarily play second base, but if the Troy Tulowitzki experiment is a flop, he could get over 20 starts at shortstop before Didi Gregorius (elbow) returns.
Torres' lack of impact speed caps his fantasy upside, but make no mistake about it; he's among the most polished young hitters in the game. At the ripe age of 21, Torres was 20% better than league average, even after accounting for park effects. He went on an incredible run shortly after his callup in late April, smacking nine homers over the course of 16 games. Torres ended up missing some time with a hip strain and the numbers really weren't good following his return (.249/.329/.404 in his final 60 regular-season games), but that's not the worst thing in the world for those of us trying to profit in the fantasy game. With a high-pedigree player like Torres, we should expect development and year-over-year improvement, and that late slide figures to keep him cost-effective in 2019. Look for him to primarily play second base, but if the Troy Tulowitzki experiment is a flop, he could get over 20 starts at shortstop before Didi Gregorius (elbow) returns.
LAD (SS)
G
141
AB
551
AVG
.296
HR
21
RBI
78
SB
3
R
86
The fact that Seager was still limited in the volume and distance of his throwing at the start of spring training should have been a huge red flag. Seager insisted he would be active for Opening Day, but he didn't appear to be himself as he was limited to DH duty initially upon joining big-league camp and slashed just .220/.316/.440 during Cactus League play. While he was indeed cleared for the start of the year, Seager's struggles continued into the regular season and then, suddenly, in late April the Dodgers announced that Seager was headed for Tommy John surgery. Later in the summer, Seager had another procedure to repair a torn left hip labrum and shave a misshaped bone. Seager was an emerging star in the game before the lost season, having shown an ability to hit for both power and average. If these surgeries have their desired effect, Seager should end up being a tremendous bargain.
The fact that Seager was still limited in the volume and distance of his throwing at the start of spring training should have been a huge red flag. Seager insisted he would be active for Opening Day, but he didn't appear to be himself as he was limited to DH duty initially upon joining big-league camp and slashed just .220/.316/.440 during Cactus League play. While he was indeed cleared for the start of the year, Seager's struggles continued into the regular season and then, suddenly, in late April the Dodgers announced that Seager was headed for Tommy John surgery. Later in the summer, Seager had another procedure to repair a torn left hip labrum and shave a misshaped bone. Seager was an emerging star in the game before the lost season, having shown an ability to hit for both power and average. If these surgeries have their desired effect, Seager should end up being a tremendous bargain.
NYM (SS)
G
155
AB
571
AVG
.261
HR
11
RBI
55
SB
30
R
82
A second-half stolen-base surge has propelled Rosario up the already-loaded shortstop rankings. After the break, the 23-year-old speed merchant swiped 18 bases in 24 attempts while also chipping in five homers. As impressive as this stint was, Rosario carries a lot of risk as his plate skills need work for a player of this ilk, especially since he's not a power or batting-average asset. He walked only 5% of the time while punching out at a 20% clip. Both need work for Rosario to be assured of a spot at the top of the Mets' order, where he can put his wheels to use. There's reason for optimism as his contact skills improved over the second half, often telling for young players. Still, the range of outcomes is wide as a slide could push Rosario low in the order where his opportunities to run would suffer. It comes down to your risk profile. How much do you want to pay for speed upside from a player with middling power and batting-average potential?
A second-half stolen-base surge has propelled Rosario up the already-loaded shortstop rankings. After the break, the 23-year-old speed merchant swiped 18 bases in 24 attempts while also chipping in five homers. As impressive as this stint was, Rosario carries a lot of risk as his plate skills need work for a player of this ilk, especially since he's not a power or batting-average asset. He walked only 5% of the time while punching out at a 20% clip. Both need work for Rosario to be assured of a spot at the top of the Mets' order, where he can put his wheels to use. There's reason for optimism as his contact skills improved over the second half, often telling for young players. Still, the range of outcomes is wide as a slide could push Rosario low in the order where his opportunities to run would suffer. It comes down to your risk profile. How much do you want to pay for speed upside from a player with middling power and batting-average potential?
TEX (SS)
IL-10
G
151
AB
621
AVG
.282
HR
11
RBI
61
SB
20
R
81
After smacking eight home runs in 2016, Andrus exploded for 20 homers in 2017. That uptick in power, combined with nine consecutive seasons of 20-plus stolen bases, made Andrus a top-60 pick on average in the NFBC. Unfortunately, Andrus was hit by a pitch in April and suffered an elbow fracture which cost him more than two months, and the power simply never returned. More confoundingly, he stopped running almost entirely, attempting a mere eight steals in 97 games. His batting average also plummeted and in the end, Andrus wasn't even a top-40 player at his own position. At 30 years of age, Andrus still has the speed to get back to 20 steals, but a lot will depend on new manager Chris Woodward's tendencies in the running game. There's also the question as to whether the batting average will return, which doesn't seem like a lock (.239 xBA). What is for sure is that Andrus will continue to play every day.
After smacking eight home runs in 2016, Andrus exploded for 20 homers in 2017. That uptick in power, combined with nine consecutive seasons of 20-plus stolen bases, made Andrus a top-60 pick on average in the NFBC. Unfortunately, Andrus was hit by a pitch in April and suffered an elbow fracture which cost him more than two months, and the power simply never returned. More confoundingly, he stopped running almost entirely, attempting a mere eight steals in 97 games. His batting average also plummeted and in the end, Andrus wasn't even a top-40 player at his own position. At 30 years of age, Andrus still has the speed to get back to 20 steals, but a lot will depend on new manager Chris Woodward's tendencies in the running game. There's also the question as to whether the batting average will return, which doesn't seem like a lock (.239 xBA). What is for sure is that Andrus will continue to play every day.
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LAA (OF)
G
154
AB
527
AVG
.311
HR
42
RBI
92
SB
28
R
116
Trout remains the best overall talent in the game of baseball and should be the first overall player taken in any draft and the most expensive player purchased in any auction. If we could place animated GIFs into player capsules, a mic drop would be the only thing needed to describe what Trout brings to the table. He has raised his on-base percentage five consecutive seasons, and each of the past three has been over .400. There is nothing he does not excel at as he continues to accept his walks when the league does not want to pitch to him, and he is 46-for-his-last-52 in stolen-base attempts. There have been 38 players in the history of baseball who have at least 250 home runs and 200 stolen bases over the course of their career. Trout needs 10 home runs and 11 steals to join that list in 2019, and will have made the list before his 28th birthday. 1.1; set it and forget it.
Trout remains the best overall talent in the game of baseball and should be the first overall player taken in any draft and the most expensive player purchased in any auction. If we could place animated GIFs into player capsules, a mic drop would be the only thing needed to describe what Trout brings to the table. He has raised his on-base percentage five consecutive seasons, and each of the past three has been over .400. There is nothing he does not excel at as he continues to accept his walks when the league does not want to pitch to him, and he is 46-for-his-last-52 in stolen-base attempts. There have been 38 players in the history of baseball who have at least 250 home runs and 200 stolen bases over the course of their career. Trout needs 10 home runs and 11 steals to join that list in 2019, and will have made the list before his 28th birthday. 1.1; set it and forget it.
MIL (OF)
DTD
G
150
AB
581
AVG
.315
HR
37
RBI
115
SB
18
R
108
Few anticipated that the Brewers were trading for the NL MVP when they acquired Yelich from the Marlins last January, but that's exactly what occurred. Yelich got off to a bit of a slow start, but he kept getting better and better at the plate, and had one of the best second halves of all time, posting a 1.219 OPS after the All-Star break. His second-half surge helped him set career highs in nearly every category, and his doubles decreased only because he doubled his home-run total from the year before. Yelich is able to play all three outfield positions and had a better average against lefties (.337) than righties (.321) last season, so there is never much reason to take him out of the lineup. His conditions will be almost the same in his age-27 season. Last year, Yelich proved he has a very high ceiling, but it is his incredibly high floor that makes him such an appealing first-round pick. He is a true five-category building block.
Few anticipated that the Brewers were trading for the NL MVP when they acquired Yelich from the Marlins last January, but that's exactly what occurred. Yelich got off to a bit of a slow start, but he kept getting better and better at the plate, and had one of the best second halves of all time, posting a 1.219 OPS after the All-Star break. His second-half surge helped him set career highs in nearly every category, and his doubles decreased only because he doubled his home-run total from the year before. Yelich is able to play all three outfield positions and had a better average against lefties (.337) than righties (.321) last season, so there is never much reason to take him out of the lineup. His conditions will be almost the same in his age-27 season. Last year, Yelich proved he has a very high ceiling, but it is his incredibly high floor that makes him such an appealing first-round pick. He is a true five-category building block.
BOS (OF)
G
146
AB
582
AVG
.320
HR
30
RBI
85
SB
25
R
119
If there were any doubts about Betts' status as one of the best hitters in the game after his "down" 2017 season, he put them to rest with his AL MVP campaign. He may not be Mike Trout, but Betts is arguably now the 1B to Trout's 1A heading into 2019. Betts was second to Trout in wRC+ with a 185 mark, and he ranked fourth among qualified hitters in ISO, which is hard to fathom for a player who is 5-foot-9, 180 pounds. Thanks in part to a swing tweak, Betts added a whopping 82 points to his batting average, besting every other qualifier in average by 16 points, and also led the majors in slugging percentage. And even with all that, his most valuable contributions to fantasy owners came on the basepaths, with Betts going 30-for-36 in stolen-base attempts. In an era where steals are way down, his ability to chip in 25-plus bags annually while doing so much else makes him an incredibly rare commodity. Enjoy the ride.
If there were any doubts about Betts' status as one of the best hitters in the game after his "down" 2017 season, he put them to rest with his AL MVP campaign. He may not be Mike Trout, but Betts is arguably now the 1B to Trout's 1A heading into 2019. Betts was second to Trout in wRC+ with a 185 mark, and he ranked fourth among qualified hitters in ISO, which is hard to fathom for a player who is 5-foot-9, 180 pounds. Thanks in part to a swing tweak, Betts added a whopping 82 points to his batting average, besting every other qualifier in average by 16 points, and also led the majors in slugging percentage. And even with all that, his most valuable contributions to fantasy owners came on the basepaths, with Betts going 30-for-36 in stolen-base attempts. In an era where steals are way down, his ability to chip in 25-plus bags annually while doing so much else makes him an incredibly rare commodity. Enjoy the ride.
BOS (OF)
DTD
G
147
AB
551
AVG
.314
HR
41
RBI
116
SB
3
R
99
Martinez was unsigned deep into last winter, but the wait was worth it after he found the perfect landing spot in Boston. While mainly serving as the club's DH, Martinez avoided the health issues that plagued him as an everyday outfielder the prior two seasons, playing in 150 games and setting career highs in AVG (.330), OBP (.402), RBI (130), runs (111) and extra-base hits (82). As has held true since his 2014 breakout, Martinez remains a Statcast darling, with his elite hard-hit and barrel rates yielding elevated BABIPs for a player with limited speed. The stellar batted-ball metrics bolster Martinez's odds of finishing near the top of the home-run and average leaderboards again in 2019, while his spot in a lineup that includes a bevy of young stars sets him up for ample run-producing and run-scoring chances. Martinez retains outfield eligibility after logging 57 starts in 2018, mitigating any concern about his worthiness of a first-round selection.
Martinez was unsigned deep into last winter, but the wait was worth it after he found the perfect landing spot in Boston. While mainly serving as the club's DH, Martinez avoided the health issues that plagued him as an everyday outfielder the prior two seasons, playing in 150 games and setting career highs in AVG (.330), OBP (.402), RBI (130), runs (111) and extra-base hits (82). As has held true since his 2014 breakout, Martinez remains a Statcast darling, with his elite hard-hit and barrel rates yielding elevated BABIPs for a player with limited speed. The stellar batted-ball metrics bolster Martinez's odds of finishing near the top of the home-run and average leaderboards again in 2019, while his spot in a lineup that includes a bevy of young stars sets him up for ample run-producing and run-scoring chances. Martinez retains outfield eligibility after logging 57 starts in 2018, mitigating any concern about his worthiness of a first-round selection.
ATL (OF)
G
153
AB
599
AVG
.301
HR
30
RBI
85
SB
23
R
102
A lot of top prospects fail to live up to the hype. Acuna was not one of them. After receiving the "Kris Bryant Treatment," Acuna got the call to Atlanta on April 25 and ended up returning top-20 value in the outfield in just 487 plate appearances. The incredible bat speed he showed as a prospect manifested itself right away with Acuna hitting for both average and power. His barrel rate of 8.6 Brls/PA was a top-20 mark in baseball (min. 150 batted-ball events), and his recorded sprint speed was also elite. It's incredible to think of what the numbers could have looked like had Acuna not missed a month with a knee sprain. While it's not wise to prorate stats for most players, Acuna is the rare exception with whom it's totally plausible to think he could keep up a similar rate of production over the course of a full season. There is some swing and miss here (25.3%), but Acuna may lead off for the Braves and his physical tools are right up there with the best of the best.
A lot of top prospects fail to live up to the hype. Acuna was not one of them. After receiving the "Kris Bryant Treatment," Acuna got the call to Atlanta on April 25 and ended up returning top-20 value in the outfield in just 487 plate appearances. The incredible bat speed he showed as a prospect manifested itself right away with Acuna hitting for both average and power. His barrel rate of 8.6 Brls/PA was a top-20 mark in baseball (min. 150 batted-ball events), and his recorded sprint speed was also elite. It's incredible to think of what the numbers could have looked like had Acuna not missed a month with a knee sprain. While it's not wise to prorate stats for most players, Acuna is the rare exception with whom it's totally plausible to think he could keep up a similar rate of production over the course of a full season. There is some swing and miss here (25.3%), but Acuna may lead off for the Braves and his physical tools are right up there with the best of the best.
COL (OF)
G
151
AB
603
AVG
.312
HR
30
RBI
86
SB
9
R
120
Blackmon was a top fantasy option just two years ago. Sure, he’ll turn 33 in July and there are signs of skills decline, but chances are rumors of his demise are premature. Blackmon’s 19.3 K% last season was the highest of his career, but assuming it doesn’t get much worse, it’s still better than average. His power waned due to a four-point drop in flyball rate, but his 17.7 % HR/FB was his second best ever. Blackmon’s running has curtailed, but remember he swiped only 14 bags in his stellar 2017 season, a number certainly still within reach. Aside from playing in Coors Field, Blackmon’s numbers are driven by volume, playing at least 154 games four of the past five seasons, averaging 678 PA during that span. The market appears to be over-penalizing a fantasy stud for a down age-32 season. He may not rebound to a first-round, $30 level, but Blackmon has plenty left in his tank.
Blackmon was a top fantasy option just two years ago. Sure, he’ll turn 33 in July and there are signs of skills decline, but chances are rumors of his demise are premature. Blackmon’s 19.3 K% last season was the highest of his career, but assuming it doesn’t get much worse, it’s still better than average. His power waned due to a four-point drop in flyball rate, but his 17.7 % HR/FB was his second best ever. Blackmon’s running has curtailed, but remember he swiped only 14 bags in his stellar 2017 season, a number certainly still within reach. Aside from playing in Coors Field, Blackmon’s numbers are driven by volume, playing at least 154 games four of the past five seasons, averaging 678 PA during that span. The market appears to be over-penalizing a fantasy stud for a down age-32 season. He may not rebound to a first-round, $30 level, but Blackmon has plenty left in his tank.
PHI (OF)
G
145
AB
522
AVG
.270
HR
33
RBI
99
SB
11
R
108
Harper overcame a down first half and the specter of his looming free agency to rank as a top-20 hitter last season, at least in terms of wRC+ (135). Fantasy managers were probably hoping for better ROI from Harper, despite the outfielder finishing with his most home runs, RBI and runs since his 2015 MVP campaign. Rather than his counting-stats production, it was Harper's .249 AVG that was the most significant drag on his value. Perhaps more than his landing spot and the perception of him being an injury-prone player, Harper's volatility in batting average is what makes forecasting him most challenging. Harper raised his hard-hit percentage last season and saw only a marginal dip in barrel rate, yet still noticed a 67-point crash in BABIP from 2017. Now that Harper has hit under .250 and above .315 two times apiece in the last four years, those nabbing him early in drafts should plan to support him with players with steadier batting profiles.
Harper overcame a down first half and the specter of his looming free agency to rank as a top-20 hitter last season, at least in terms of wRC+ (135). Fantasy managers were probably hoping for better ROI from Harper, despite the outfielder finishing with his most home runs, RBI and runs since his 2015 MVP campaign. Rather than his counting-stats production, it was Harper's .249 AVG that was the most significant drag on his value. Perhaps more than his landing spot and the perception of him being an injury-prone player, Harper's volatility in batting average is what makes forecasting him most challenging. Harper raised his hard-hit percentage last season and saw only a marginal dip in barrel rate, yet still noticed a 67-point crash in BABIP from 2017. Now that Harper has hit under .250 and above .315 two times apiece in the last four years, those nabbing him early in drafts should plan to support him with players with steadier batting profiles.
WAS (OF)
G
155
AB
536
AVG
.289
HR
32
RBI
96
SB
8
R
102
Simply put, Soto had one of the best seasons for a teenager of all time. His talent has never been in question, but the fact he even made his debut in 2018 came as a huge surprise considering he opened the year at Low-A. Soto arrived in the majors May 20 and made an immediate impact, homering in his first career start. He never looked back after that, posting a stellar .923 OPS and missing out on the Rookie of the Year award only because of an equally impressive season from Ronald Acuna. Among MLB hitters with at least 450 PA, Soto ranked sixth in BB% (16.0), 10th in wRC+ (146) and 12th in BB/K (0.80). Again, he was 19 when he did this. He handled righties (152 wRC+) and lefties (128 wRC+) just fine, so don't worry about a platoon. The loss of Bryce Harper may cost him some RBI and runs, but it also likely locks him in as the cleanup hitter indefinitely.
Simply put, Soto had one of the best seasons for a teenager of all time. His talent has never been in question, but the fact he even made his debut in 2018 came as a huge surprise considering he opened the year at Low-A. Soto arrived in the majors May 20 and made an immediate impact, homering in his first career start. He never looked back after that, posting a stellar .923 OPS and missing out on the Rookie of the Year award only because of an equally impressive season from Ronald Acuna. Among MLB hitters with at least 450 PA, Soto ranked sixth in BB% (16.0), 10th in wRC+ (146) and 12th in BB/K (0.80). Again, he was 19 when he did this. He handled righties (152 wRC+) and lefties (128 wRC+) just fine, so don't worry about a platoon. The loss of Bryce Harper may cost him some RBI and runs, but it also likely locks him in as the cleanup hitter indefinitely.
BOS (OF)
G
146
AB
560
AVG
.288
HR
23
RBI
89
SB
18
R
94
What do you call a player who is above average across the board but doesn't excel in any one area? His teammates call him Beni. Benintendi fell four homers short of his second straight 20-20 season but increased his doubles by 15 along with powering six triples, resulting in a 41-point jump in SLG along with a 20-point ISO increase. Keying this surge was an improved handling of southpaws (.694 OPS as compared to a .622 mark the previous season). Batting second for most of the season, Benintendi eclipsed the century mark in runs for the first time in his young career. If there's a concern, it comes from Statcast as his exit velocity and barrel rate are pedestrian. However, a solid 82% contact rate keeps his batting average floor high while allowing him to take advantage of Fenway Park. Benintendi may still develop more power and continue to improve against LHP. Chasing that is a risk, but settling for a repeat of 2018 is reasonable.
What do you call a player who is above average across the board but doesn't excel in any one area? His teammates call him Beni. Benintendi fell four homers short of his second straight 20-20 season but increased his doubles by 15 along with powering six triples, resulting in a 41-point jump in SLG along with a 20-point ISO increase. Keying this surge was an improved handling of southpaws (.694 OPS as compared to a .622 mark the previous season). Batting second for most of the season, Benintendi eclipsed the century mark in runs for the first time in his young career. If there's a concern, it comes from Statcast as his exit velocity and barrel rate are pedestrian. However, a solid 82% contact rate keeps his batting average floor high while allowing him to take advantage of Fenway Park. Benintendi may still develop more power and continue to improve against LHP. Chasing that is a risk, but settling for a repeat of 2018 is reasonable.
NYY (OF)
IL-10
G
127
AB
443
AVG
.280
HR
37
RBI
91
SB
5
R
92
Regression was probably inevitable for Judge after he took the baseball world by storm as a rookie, but his 25-home run decline was harsher than most anticipated. The fractured wrist that sidelined Judge for nearly two months bears much of the blame, as his batted-ball profile otherwise revealed the outfielder performed like one of the game's top sluggers. For the second straight year, Judge lit up the Statcast leaderboards, ranking first in average exit velocity (94.8 mph) and hard-hit percentage (53.8%) and 20th in barrel rate (8.6 Brls/PA). Judge's thumping ways should regularly translate to high BABIPs, thereby giving him more batting-average stability than others who strike out as often as he does (career 31.6 K%). Further wrist issues would obviously affect Judge's outlook, but the fact that he ended 2018 on the field and didn't require a follow-up procedure over the winter indicates the Yankees are confident he'll anchor a talented lineup in 2019.
Regression was probably inevitable for Judge after he took the baseball world by storm as a rookie, but his 25-home run decline was harsher than most anticipated. The fractured wrist that sidelined Judge for nearly two months bears much of the blame, as his batted-ball profile otherwise revealed the outfielder performed like one of the game's top sluggers. For the second straight year, Judge lit up the Statcast leaderboards, ranking first in average exit velocity (94.8 mph) and hard-hit percentage (53.8%) and 20th in barrel rate (8.6 Brls/PA). Judge's thumping ways should regularly translate to high BABIPs, thereby giving him more batting-average stability than others who strike out as often as he does (career 31.6 K%). Further wrist issues would obviously affect Judge's outlook, but the fact that he ended 2018 on the field and didn't require a follow-up procedure over the winter indicates the Yankees are confident he'll anchor a talented lineup in 2019.
PHI (OF)
G
155
AB
563
AVG
.256
HR
35
RBI
99
SB
3
R
91
Hoskins couldn't maintain the incredible pace that saw him hit 18 homers in 50 games as a rookie, but that doesn't mean his second season should be considered a disappointment. He slashed .246/.354/.496 with 34 homers, 89 runs and 96 RBI, all while playing out of position in left field. Those numbers made him one of the most valuable fantasy first basemen, though with just 17 games played at the position, he's now only outfield-eligible in traditional formats. He will quickly regain 1B-eligibility after Carlos Santana was dealt this offseason. The Phillies already added Jean Segura and could add another big bat in free agency, so Hoskins' counting stats could increase, even beyond any personal improvements he makes heading into his age-26 season. His batting average may remain modest due to a flyball-heavy approach (51% flyball rate last season) but a strong 13.2% walk rate erases that weakness in OBP and points leagues.
Hoskins couldn't maintain the incredible pace that saw him hit 18 homers in 50 games as a rookie, but that doesn't mean his second season should be considered a disappointment. He slashed .246/.354/.496 with 34 homers, 89 runs and 96 RBI, all while playing out of position in left field. Those numbers made him one of the most valuable fantasy first basemen, though with just 17 games played at the position, he's now only outfield-eligible in traditional formats. He will quickly regain 1B-eligibility after Carlos Santana was dealt this offseason. The Phillies already added Jean Segura and could add another big bat in free agency, so Hoskins' counting stats could increase, even beyond any personal improvements he makes heading into his age-26 season. His batting average may remain modest due to a flyball-heavy approach (51% flyball rate last season) but a strong 13.2% walk rate erases that weakness in OBP and points leagues.
STL (OF)
G
151
AB
591
AVG
.289
HR
28
RBI
98
SB
4
R
81
Compared to former outfield mates Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton, Ozuna didn't make as much of a splash in his first year outside Miami. Ozuna eventually found his swing after a slow start to his Cardinals career, slashing .299/.346/.482 with 20 home runs from May 21 onward. It still marked a step back from the .924 OPS and 37 long balls he supplied in 2017, though regression was always coming after he needed a 23.4% HR/FB -- nearly nine points above his career rate -- to achieve that production. Moreover, Ozuna battled a sore right shoulder for a good portion of the second half that later required offseason arthroscopic surgery, further explaining the power downturn on some level. There's always a risk that such a procedure continues to sap his slugging output, but the improved contact skills Ozuna has displayed the last few years coupled with his guaranteed spot in the heart of the order give him a fairly dependable four-category floor.
Compared to former outfield mates Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton, Ozuna didn't make as much of a splash in his first year outside Miami. Ozuna eventually found his swing after a slow start to his Cardinals career, slashing .299/.346/.482 with 20 home runs from May 21 onward. It still marked a step back from the .924 OPS and 37 long balls he supplied in 2017, though regression was always coming after he needed a 23.4% HR/FB -- nearly nine points above his career rate -- to achieve that production. Moreover, Ozuna battled a sore right shoulder for a good portion of the second half that later required offseason arthroscopic surgery, further explaining the power downturn on some level. There's always a risk that such a procedure continues to sap his slugging output, but the improved contact skills Ozuna has displayed the last few years coupled with his guaranteed spot in the heart of the order give him a fairly dependable four-category floor.
MIN (OF)
G
154
AB
585
AVG
.289
HR
28
RBI
80
SB
9
R
90
Rosario looked like an All-Star snub, hitting .311/.353/.537 with 19 home runs in the first half. He faded in the second half (.240/.262/.361 with just five homers) and played just eight games over the final month due to a nagging quadriceps issue. Rosario, who has always been a free swinger, had the fifth-worst O-Swing% (42.9) among qualified hitters. That said, he has an uncanny ability to make hard contact on bad balls. He has reduced his strikeout rate the past two seasons (17.6% in 2018), but his 5.9 BB% from 2017 represents a career high. He's become an above-average defender in left field and improved on the basepaths (8-of-10 on stolen-base attempts). If his second-half decline was due more to injuries than an erosion of skills, Rosario could be set for a career year at age 27. That late-season fade should allow for a palatable price tag on draft day.
Rosario looked like an All-Star snub, hitting .311/.353/.537 with 19 home runs in the first half. He faded in the second half (.240/.262/.361 with just five homers) and played just eight games over the final month due to a nagging quadriceps issue. Rosario, who has always been a free swinger, had the fifth-worst O-Swing% (42.9) among qualified hitters. That said, he has an uncanny ability to make hard contact on bad balls. He has reduced his strikeout rate the past two seasons (17.6% in 2018), but his 5.9 BB% from 2017 represents a career high. He's become an above-average defender in left field and improved on the basepaths (8-of-10 on stolen-base attempts). If his second-half decline was due more to injuries than an erosion of skills, Rosario could be set for a career year at age 27. That late-season fade should allow for a palatable price tag on draft day.
TB (OF)
G
149
AB
506
AVG
.283
HR
24
RBI
70
SB
15
R
104
Pham began the 2018 season where the 2017 season left off, hitting .358 in April. He proceeded to hit .197 over the next two months while playing through a troublesome groin strain that was not serious enough to put him on the disabled list. The struggles led to frustrations on his part and he got into terrible habits at the plate which led to expanding his strike zone to chase pitches he could not do much with. Pham was still stinging balls in the zone, and Tampa Bay noticed that and made the surprising acquisition of Pham at the trade deadline. Pham had the fifth-highest wOBA in baseball over the final two months of the season, trailing only Christian Yelich, Mike Trout, Mookie Betts and Justin Turner. The talent is there for Pham to be a top-50 player, but the lack of a health track record should prevent you from overreaching for what was a phenomenal final two months of hitting after the trade.
Pham began the 2018 season where the 2017 season left off, hitting .358 in April. He proceeded to hit .197 over the next two months while playing through a troublesome groin strain that was not serious enough to put him on the disabled list. The struggles led to frustrations on his part and he got into terrible habits at the plate which led to expanding his strike zone to chase pitches he could not do much with. Pham was still stinging balls in the zone, and Tampa Bay noticed that and made the surprising acquisition of Pham at the trade deadline. Pham had the fifth-highest wOBA in baseball over the final two months of the season, trailing only Christian Yelich, Mike Trout, Mookie Betts and Justin Turner. The talent is there for Pham to be a top-50 player, but the lack of a health track record should prevent you from overreaching for what was a phenomenal final two months of hitting after the trade.
COL (OF)
G
151
AB
541
AVG
.275
HR
30
RBI
96
SB
8
R
73
A stomach virus put Dahl on the shelf at Triple-A early on. After he turned the page on that issue, Dahl got the call up to Colorado, but he was only given part-time opportunities before a broken foot sidelined him for two months. He was a bit slow to get going following his return in August, but over the final week of the season, Dahl exploded for six homers and 15 RBI. With Gerardo Parra out of the way, there is finally what looks like a clear path to regular playing time for Dahl. In what amounts to close to a full season in the majors so far in his career (508 PA), Dahl has hit .293/.341/.518 with 23 homers and 10 stolen bases. It's easy to dream on what he could do in Colorado in 2019, if he can stay healthy. That's a fairly big "if," however; Dahl has also dealt with rib, back and hamstring issues as a pro, and he had his spleen removed after an outfield collision, totaling 400 PA only twice in the last six seasons.
A stomach virus put Dahl on the shelf at Triple-A early on. After he turned the page on that issue, Dahl got the call up to Colorado, but he was only given part-time opportunities before a broken foot sidelined him for two months. He was a bit slow to get going following his return in August, but over the final week of the season, Dahl exploded for six homers and 15 RBI. With Gerardo Parra out of the way, there is finally what looks like a clear path to regular playing time for Dahl. In what amounts to close to a full season in the majors so far in his career (508 PA), Dahl has hit .293/.341/.518 with 23 homers and 10 stolen bases. It's easy to dream on what he could do in Colorado in 2019, if he can stay healthy. That's a fairly big "if," however; Dahl has also dealt with rib, back and hamstring issues as a pro, and he had his spleen removed after an outfield collision, totaling 400 PA only twice in the last six seasons.
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