The top 10 picks in a fantasy draft are usually the most recognizable. From year-to-year, the superstars tend to stick — Mike Trout has more or less maintained the number one spot since his breakout 2012 season. Bryce Harper is there, Clayton Kershaw, Nolan Arenado, Paul Goldschmidt and other recognizable studs as well.
But there is also the inevitable turnover. Players get older, get hurt, and just plain struggle, and then the following season we have new names to jump on. We’re only a third of the way through this season, but it’s pretty obvious how some things are going to shake out, so let’s take a stab at predicting 2019’s top 10 picks.
Even just going back to 2016’s draft numbers, it’s fascinating to see some of the players we once were spending early picks on. Andrew McCutchen was still sitting in the top 10, and since the start of 2016 he’s been the 62nd ranked offensive player according to Fangraphs’ offensive metric. We’ve witnessed the epic fall of Toronto’s beloved bat flipper Jose Bautista from 17th pick to going unsigned (are we really counting that bizarre Braves experiment?). There’s also Miguel Cabrera’s disappearance into the fat sunset, and Manny Machado’s rise, descent, then rise again to the pantheon of awesomeness. Only time will tell what we have to look forward to next year, but that won’t stop me from trying to figure it out.
#1 Mike Trout – OF, Los Angeles Angels
If at any time since 2014 drafts (I’ll give you 2013 as a buffer year) you haven’t taken Trout first overall, you’re an idiot. Since that season he has put up an astounding 269.4 offensive points per Fangraphs, which is over 100 points higher than the number two: Joey Votto. He’s the best and we should just start saying top nine instead of top 10 and devote a permanent spot for him at the top.
#2 Mookie Betts – OF, Boston Red Sox
Betts has the youth and talent to easily make this a simple choice. I considered moving number three to this spot but the stolen bases that Betts provides gives a better boost to his value. I really doubt his power is this good, but even if you wind up with 2017 Betts you’ll still be happy taking him here.
#3 Nolan Arenado – 3B, Colorado Rockies
His power output is down a bit, but he’s walking over 10% (14.7% actually) for the first time in his career. Even if he is more of a 30 home run power bat than 40, his age and sustained success make him a stud.
#4 Jose Ramirez – 3B, Cleveland Indians
I was heavily in on Jose Ramirez this season and ended up with him in a few leagues. I believed the power spike was legit, and he was a true threat for a .300 average, 30 homers, and 20 stolen bases. That’s super valuable in this day and age of stolen base scarcity, and the fact that he’s only 25 means he might even have room to grow. He wasn’t even in the top 20 at the beginning of the year, now he’s definitely top 10.
#5 Francisco Lindor – SS, Cleveland Indians
How far he has come since he was a highly regarded defensive prospect who might go 15-15 in his best years. Last year he hit 33 homers and stole 15 bases. This year he’s on pace for 36 homers and 15 stolen bases. He plays shortstop, walks 8-10% of the time, hits .300, and is just 24. I was skeptical long ago but not anymore. He’s a top fiver for me now.
#6 Jose Altuve – 2B, Houston Astros
Make no bones about it, Jose Altuve is having a pretty crappy year per his standards. Of course, a crappy year where you hit .329/.374/.467 and are on pace for 90 R/RBI just goes to show how good he has been in the past. I’m happy to keep him around here in my top 10 because batting average is very important in this day and age and he’s a surefire lock for a good one. But there are plenty of troubling signs for Altuve. If he can’t steal 30 bases anymore, I’m going to have to start to really bail on him. He’s only 28 years old somehow, so it’s probably premature to report his demise, but he’s also definitely not the number two pick from 2016-17.
#7 Trea Turner – SS, Washington Nationals
I ended up with Trea Turner in a lot of leagues because I reached for him at the number three overall pick. I’m not necessarily disappointed in that pick even though he has struggled a bit, but I also might have done it a bit differently now. I wasn’t too concerned about his slow start, and he’s certainly picked it up since those first few weeks of the season. The problem right now is that he’s stolen only two bases since April 30, and his projection of 70-plus steals on the season at that time now looks more like 40. That’s still immensely valuable, and SBs come in bunches so it’s entirely possible he clears 50 with ease. But we have seen some chinks in his armor and I’m just a bit wary of who he truly is as a hitter. Of course, if he hits 18-20 homers to go along with those 40+ steals I might need to actually bump him up the list a bit. I think he remains in the top 10 for a few years just because of his elite speed.
#8 Freddie Freeman – 1B, Atlanta Braves
If you add in another 120 plate appearances or so to last year’s numbers to replace the time lost from the fractured wrist, you get this: .307/.403/586, 34 HR, 103 R, 87 RBI, 10 SB. This season, if you do the same math magic, puts Freeman at 90 R, 100 RBI, and 10 SB to go along with his current .333/.433/.542 line. The home run output is down as he’s only on pace for about 23 as of now, but I’m going to bet he picks that up as the months go along. I’m not the first to say it, but it bears repeating: Freddy Freeman is the new Joey Votto. And to be honest, first base is a bit of a hellhole right now, so having the best option at the position isn’t a bad thing. Freeman is a stud, and he’s 28 so there is plenty more in the tank. Now stop getting hit in the wrist, Fred.
#9 Max Scherzer – SP, Washington Nationals
This is my token pitcher for the list. The 2018 draft season marked the first time that I have seen so many pitchers going so high in drafts. I’m of course talking about the big four of Scherzer, Kluber, Kershaw, and Sale. Of those four I firmly believe Scherzer is the best of the bunch if you look at the whole picture. Kershaw doesn’t ever pitch anymore, Sale has the weird delivery so I’ll never be able to shake off my fear of him getting hurt, and Kluber gets by more on smarts than stuff, though he’s my number two of the four. I think Severino and Thor are in the discussion, but since Mad Max has been the best and is still pitching like the best, until I see something, anything that tells me he’s struggling, he’s the man for me.
#10 Aaron Judge – OF, New York Yankees
This was a tricky pick for me. I tend to avoid guys with insane strikeout rates and massive joint-destroying bodies. I wanted to put Machado here, but if Judge is going to keep batting .280 and homering at an insane rate, then he has to be the guy. Add that to the fact that we know he’s going to play in the Yankees’ lineup and net a ton of runs and RBI (he’s on pace for 110 of each) and you’ve got an amazing talent on your hands. My fear in the long run remains the same, but now that I’ve seen him continue to mash and walk an astounding 18% of the time over 900 plate appearances, I’ll buy in. All rise and so forth.
Just Missed the Top 10 (in no particular order)
Bryce Harper – OF, Washington Nationals
I don’t know where he’ll play next year, but wherever it is he will be pretty good. The problem is that he’s continually lacking in one area of his game. Sometimes that area changes from health to lack of stolen bases, to lack of power, to this year’s fun excursion of not hitting for batting average (.228 right now, and that’s hurting you a lot more than you think in your leagues), but he’s never quite put it all together since that insane 2015 season. I still believe, but the hype needs to die down a bit.
Manny Machado – SS, Baltimore Orioles
I believed in my heart that last year’s down numbers were an anomaly, and this year Machado is proving that statement to be true. He’s actually walking more than 10% of the time this season, which is a first, and the power is on pace for 40 home runs for the first time in his career. This is also the first time he’s been hitting over .300, so I don’t know if that’s the new norm or just a fluke. The major negative to Machado is that he never developed the stolen bases as well as once thought, but he’s a masher and a fine pick.
Charlie Blackmon – OF, Colorado Rockies
The numbers are down across the board (except for home runs). And now that he doesn’t steal 40 bases his value is way lower. Coupled with being 31 he’s a risky bet to fall off a cliff at any moment. But signing that deal to stay in Colorado does mean he gets to play half his games in Coors Field which alone means he’s worth a solid pick.