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Baseball draft time again, and here's me getting a late start. Over the next few weeks, I'll lay out my top 100 players in four installments that also provide their positional rankings.
Fans of a certain Cubs bromance will find much to love in the top 10, so here we go . . .
1) Mike Trout, Of, LAA; OF Rank: 1 - The only player last year with at least 100 runs, 100 walks, 100 RBI and 30 SBs, and fell just one HR short of 30. HRs dropped dramatically from 41 in 2015 to 29, but every other stat rebounded. Led MLB in walks (116) and runs (123), and he's just 25.
2) Kris Bryant, 1B/3B/OF; 1B Rank: 1 3B Rank: 1: OF Rank: 2 - The 2016 MVP can still improve on his 39 HRs and 102 RBI, and seems driven to do that despite a World Series win he could coast on for years. His 121 runs were tied for third in MLB, and walks and OBP only are likely to improve. His 1B eligibility in Yahoo! was nice surprise. Lacks SBs, but don't be surprised if that stat jumps with a few more walks.
3) Mookie Betts, OF BOS; OF Rank: 3 - Who would have expected him to have more HRs (31) than Trout and more RBI (113) than Bryant? Both tended to come in bunches, but his 122 runs were tied for second in MLB, his 26 SBs (his one stat that was a little lower than anticipated) and .315 average suggest he's just a notch below Trout, though Bryant's multi-position eligibility is a bit more attractive and his power is more reliable - not so sure Betts is going top 30 HRs again.
4) Nolan Arenado, 3B, COL; 3B Rank: 2 - Had 83 HRs and 263 RBI combined over the last two seasons, and has led MLB in the latter two straight years. May show how good Bryant really is that Arenado is just No. 2, but would not surprise a bit if he won the RBI crown a third straight season.
5) Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, ARI; 1B Rank: 2 - Realistic 30 HR/100 RBI/30 SB/100 runs threat going into last year managed the hard part - 32 SBs - and 106 runs, while otherwise falling short with 24 HRs, 95 RBI, and a .297 average, his lowest since 2012. At 29, probably still has at least one more shot at 30/100/30/100, along with a .300 average.
6) Jose Altuve, 2B, HOU; 2B Rank: 1 - This mighty mite's HR totals tracked upward for the fourth straight season, with a surprising 24 dingers last year, even as his SBs went down for the third straight year to 30. He's closer to 20/40 than 30/30, but still one of MLB's best overall hitters.
7) Manny Machado, SS/3B, BAL; SS Rank: 1, 3B Rank: 3 - Coming out of 2015, he looked like a sure 30/100/30 candidate, but SBs went from 20 to a shocking goose egg, Still, 37 HRs, 96 RBI were slight improvements, and average, slugging and OPS have increased three straight seasons.
8) Clayton Kershaw, SP, LAD; SP Rank: 1 - A season for the ages derailed last year by injury, yet still managed 149 innings with career-bests of 1.69 ERA, 0.72 WHIP, .184 BAA, and a miniscule 11 BB against 174 Ks. Don't know how he keeps getting better, but he does, and we're buying, especially with LAD being projected for best record among NL teams. Could he get 25 wins?
9) Josh Donaldson, 3B, TOR; 3B Rank: 3 - Came down a little from 2015 MVP campaign, but 37 HRs, 99 RBI, career-high .404 OBP (109 walks) and .953 OPS, plus second straight year scoring 122 runs mean he's still top 10 material.
10) Anthony Rizzo, 1B, CUBS; 1B Rank: 3 - Yes, Bryzzo makes the top 10. Had 32 HRs, 109 RBI, 79 extra base hits total, 94 runs, .292 average, .544 slugging (both career highs) and .929 OPS - all numbers that have been remarkably consistent three straight years. No reason to doubt a fourth.
11) Bryce Harper, OF, WAS; OF Rank: 4 - A massive talent we still haven't seen the best of, Harper tripped up after his 2015 MVP campaign, slumping to an average of.243. Though he did have a career-high 109 walks and 21 SBs, 24 HRs and 86 RBI were pedestrian for him. We could see him rebound for 30/30 and maybe even a career-first 100 RBI, but slumps and injuries concern.
12) Noah Syndergaard, SP, NYM; SP Rank: 2 - I have him higher than most, and a definite injury risk, but I'm tantalized by news he added muscle weight in the offseason to improve durability and help him through even harder, even though he already has highest average pitch speed of any MLB starter. If he's healthy, 14 wins, 218 Ks, 2.60 ERA last year seem just a starting point.
13) Trea Turner, 2B/OF, WAS; 2B Rank: 2, OF Rank: 5 - Last year's 73-game audition only added to the hype: His 35 extra-base hits (incl. 8 triples) project around that fantasy-gold range of 75+ for a full season, while 33 SBs suggest 60+, all provided he avoids the dreaded sophomore slump.
14) Charlie Blackmon, OF, COL; OF Rank: 6 - If you drafted him last year on 2015's 43 SBs, you were disappointed in just 17 SBs last year, but only mildly, as 29 HRs, 82 RBI and .324 average were all vast upgrades, despite a DL stretch. Reportedly, he has the green light to run more in 2017.
15) Max Scherzer, SP, WAS; SP Rank: 3 - Plenty will dispute Syndergaard getting ranked above the Cy winner after his 20-win, 284-K season. Knuckle injury could question Opening Day availability, but his consistency and experience will make him the No. 2 starter drafted in many leagues.
16) Corey Seager, SS, LAD; SS Rank: 2 - Reigning NL ROY played up to his hype with 26 HRs, 72 RBI, 105 runs and a .308 average. Much of that was accomplished hitting second for LAD, and he will likely do that again for a team loaded for another huge season. Lacks SB threat for now.
17) Miguel Cabrera, 1B, DET; 1B Rank: 4 - Gave up a little on Miggy last year, and he responded by rebounding with 38 HRs, 108 RBI, 92 runs, .316 average and .956 OPS, and stayed healthy enough to play 158 games. A 30/100/100/.300 threat should be ranked higher, but his position, lack of SBs, age and health all weighing on me, so, yeah, kinda giving up on him again.
18) Joey Votto, 1B, CIN; 1B Rank: 5 - Miggy and Votto are so similar - patient, tough hitters with clout, both turning 34 this season. Votto's 2016 almost had him finish top 10 in fantasy: 29 HRs, 97 RBI, 101 runs, 108 walks, .326 average, .985 OPS. He's actually getting better in his 30s.
19) Starling Marte, OF, PIT; OF Rank: 7 - Power stats fell drastically: 19 HRs to 9; 81 RBI to 46, and he missed 33 games, but SBs jumped from 31 to 47, and .287/.337/.444/.780 AVG/OBP/SLG/OPS became .311/.362/.456/.818, so he's showing overall improvement at plate.
20) Madison Bumgarner, SP, SF; SP Rank: 4 - Typically workmanlike season featured career-high of 251 Ks in 227 IP, and a .274 ERA that was his best since 2013. His 15 wins would have been higher without SF slumping big-time late season. Highly durable and worth No. 2 if you hate injury risks.
21) Carlos Correa, SS, HOU; SS Rank: 3 - 2016 season featured strong start that made it look like he would eclipse 2015 rookie power numbers, but only hit six HRs after the All-Star break and finished with 20 HRs, 96 RBI, 13 SBs, .274 average in 153 games after 22/68/11/.279 in just 99 games in 2015. Will be just 22 most of this season, so higher hopes remain intact.
22) Chris Sale, SP, BOS; SP Rank: 5 - Will the move to BOS finally give him a 20-win season? His 233 Ks were a far cry from 274 in 2015, but he tied a career-high 17 wins, which should be easier to attain with BOS. Six complete games and career-high 227 IPs last year make me wonder about fatigue.
23) Ryan Braun, OF, MIL; OF Rank: 8 - His 30 HRs, 91 RBI, .305 average, .903 OPS all were highest since 2012. 16 SBs provided more value, but at 33, they are trending downward. Still, other stats look reliable. RBI could increase with a lot of speed in MIL's lineup.
24) Francisco Lindor, SS, CLE; SS Rank: 4 - One of MLB's great young stars, though not all of it translates to fantasy. His 99 runs, 19 SBs, .301 average last year all could increase. His 15 HRs, 78 RBI last season could be outliers, but we'll see. No. 4 ranking at SS only highlights depth at position.
25) Xander Bogaerts, SS, BOS; SS Rank: 5 - Yes, five SS in the top 25, and you should be happy with any of them. Bogie's (probably no one calls him that) 21 HRs, 89 RBI were a bit more than we expected last year, but 115 runs, 192 hits, 13 SBs, .294 average at age 23 suggest a great 2017.
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Posted on May 22, 2017