Rest of Season Rankings and 2020’s First Round
Every Sunday Mick Ciallela updates his rest of season rankings to help you stay on top of the 2019 fantasy baseball season.
Welcome to the final installment of my 2019 ROS fantasy baseball rankings. Before I get into the rankings, I just wanted to thank everyone who reads this each week. It has been a lot of fun for me and hopefully, I helped you along the way.
Last week I looked at some of this season’s fantasy baseball MVPs who have helped lead us to the playoffs. This week I will have a 2020 vision and look towards the first round of next year’s drafts. It’s never too early to start preparing for next season, especially here at Fantrax. We will have leagues forming almost immediately following this year’s World Series. So, get a jump on the competition and stay ahead of the game. PSA aside, here is how I expect the first round to play out in 2020 fantasy baseball drafts.
2020’s First Round
1. Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels
This is not as obvious a pick as most would think. Yes, Mike Trout is a generational talent. But for fantasy purposes, his declining stolen base output is going to prevent him from being the world’s best fantasy player sooner rather than later. It may have already happened. Trout currently ranks fourth on our Player Rater, mainly due to only having 10 steals on the year. From 2016-2018, Trout stole a base once every 5.43 games. This year, he has a swipe once in every 11.6 games. He is still the safest player on the board and picking against him is always tough. However, there are a couple of players who are nipping at his heels and making very strong cases to be next year’s top fantasy draft pick.
2. Christian Yelich, OF, Milwaukee Brewers
The reigning National League MVP has doubled down on his breakout 2018 campaign by setting career-highs in home runs and stolen bases while contending for the league’s batting title. Christian Yelich has an outside chance at posting baseball’s first-ever 50-plus HR, 30-plus SB season. Not a bad encore. The only slight mark against Yelich is that he is “only” top-20 in runs and RBI after finishing in the top five in each category a year ago. The Brewers are in the bottom half of the league in runs scored after finished 12th last year. If they can be an above-average offense and Yelich’s tricky back cooperates, he can post some video game numbers in 2020.
3. Ronald Acuna, OF, Atlanta Braves
It is not blasphemous to suggest Ronald Acuna can be the first pick in drafts next season. He is already this year’s top hitter according to our Player Rater. The 21-year-old phenom is a legitimate MVP candidate in his first full season in the bigs. Acuna leads the National League in both runs scored and stolen bases. Oh, and he has also tacked on 36 bombs for good measure. If he can reduce his 25 percent strikeout rate and post a number in the 20 range ala Trout and Yelich, the sky is the limit for Acuna. He is the best bet in baseball to post a 40-40 season next year. Acuna could very well finish atop the fantasy baseball rankings for years to come.
4. Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians
Francisco Lindor was a major question mark heading into 2019. He was sidelined for all of Spring Training and missed the first three weeks of the regular season. Once he returned, he went back to being the fantasy stud that he has always been. His counting stats have been a bit down because Cleveland’s offense has not been as potent as in years past. But Lindor is certainly doing his part. He has a chance at a second consecutive 30-20 season and is hitting right around .300. Lindor slipped out of the first round in late drafts due to concerns about his health. If he is healthy heading into 2020, he will once again be a first-round pick.
5. Trevor Story, SS, Colorado Rockies
There have been several tremendous fantasy seasons put together by shortstops in 2019, and Story leads the position once again. After finishing fourth overall among hitters last year, Story is currently seventh. There is no shame in that, and Story produces in all five categories. The issue with Story is his massive home/road splits. It is tough to invest a first-round pick in a player who is more or less average outside of Coors Field. This will be less of a concern in 2020 in weekly formats. The Rockies have an inordinate number of split weeks next season. Benching him will not be an option in weekly leagues. Just set it and forget it and ride Story to another 30-20 season.
6. Gerrit Cole, SP, Houston Astros
I own Gerrit Cole in a couple of spots and it seems like he frustrates at times. He will randomly fall victim to a bad inning or subpar opponent. And yet, as I write this, he leads the major leagues in strikeouts, is tied for fourth in wins, second in WHIP, and seventh in ERA. He also ranks first among all qualified pitchers in xFIP. When you put his numbers into perspective, it’s hard to complain. Cole is about to turn 29 years old and right in the prime of his career. He plays for one of the best teams in baseball and should remain among the best pitchers in baseball for quite some time.
7. Trea Turner, SS, Washington Nationals
Trea Turner suffered a broken finger during the first week of the season and was out of action for a month and a half. He struggled initially but has picked up his play over the last couple of months. He hit .312 with 40 runs scored, seven home runs, and 12 steals over 51 games spanning July and August. Turner is still just 26 years old and should be an elite source of runs and stolen bases again next year. He also has some pop potential and may finally break the 20 HR threshold. That all adds up to an elite fantasy commodity, even at a stacked position like shortstop.
8. Juan Soto, OF, Washington Nationals
What can you say about Juan Soto that hasn’t already been said by Eric Cross? I thought Soto would disappoint this season. I looked smart for about three weeks. Since then? Not so much. Soto has exceeded expectations and has been an absolute beast of late. He has 30 home runs, is on pace for 100-plus runs and RBI and has a healthy batting average. He has even chipped in a dozen stolen bases for good measure. That is a part of his game he had not shown before this season. If he can steal between 15 and 20 bags, he is likely a top-five player. Considering he is still just 20 (!) years old, it is possible that there is another layer to his game. It is downright scary to think that he can get better than he already is.
9. Nolan Arenado, 3B, Colorado Rockies
I know, I know. I have Nolan Arenado ranked too low, right? Except here’s the thing. In 2018, the top seven hitters on our Player Rater all had at least 20 steals. This year, eight of the top 10 have at least 10 stolen bases. Arenado checks all the other boxes. There is no doubt about that. He hits for a high batting average and has great power numbers. Arenado is also safe and steady, and certainly, there is comfort and value in that. But you will have to grab speed if you draft Arenado. An ideal pairing for me would be someone like Adalberto Mondesi or Fernando Tatis. Both players have missed a significant chunk of 2019 due to injuries but have massive upside.
10. Mookie Betts, OF, Boston Red Sox
To call 2019 a down year for Mookie Betts only goes to show how extraordinary he was in 2018. Betts still brings plenty to the table. He leads all of baseball in runs scored while remaining a solid contributor in the other four categories. The big difference between this year and last is the batting average. There is nothing wrong with hitting .288. It’s just that when compared to last year’s .346 clip, it feels a bit underwhelming. Betts is a career .300 hitter who has oddly had wild swings in his year to year averages. This will likely be the third consecutive year where his average has either increased or decreased by at least 50 points. This fluctuation is essentially the difference between him being a top-15 player and a top-5 player, so I’ll split the baby.
11. Cody Bellinger, 1B/OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
Cody Bellinger has already exceeded 40 homers, 100 runs scored, 100 RBI, and 10 stolen bases with still a month to go. As logical as it seems to put him higher on this list based on his year-to-date output, I just cannot bring myself to do it. His early numbers have masked a stretch that has carried on for quite some time. I submit to you Cody Bellinger’s stats over the last three months compared to the numbers Max Kepler has put up this year:
Kepler 2019 season (122 games): 95 R, 35 HR, 87 RBI, 1 SB, .255 AVG
Bellinger since June 1 (76 games), 54 R, 22 HR, 49 RBI, 4 SB, .253 AVG
Pretty close, right? Well, Kepler ranks 25th among hitters in our Player Rater this year. In fact, Bellinger ranks 26th among hitters since June 1. Still want to take him in the top five overall? Bellinger is still only 24 years old, and the multipositional eligibility he provides can be huge depending on your league configurations. I just have a feeling I’m going to be fading him in 2020.
12. Justin Verlander, SP, Houston Astros
Those of us who invested a first-round pick on Max Scherzer may be reluctant to go to the well once again, so I expect Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander to go ahead of him. Verlander has been the best pitcher in baseball this season and is in the top five in every Roto category. His FIP and xFIP are a bit high, and he will be 37 years old next season, so perhaps he drops out of the first round. But as long as he does not suffer any injury in the next six months, I would have no qualms taking Verlander in the first round next year.
Rest of Season Rankings
For more help on the pitching side, check out Nathan Dokken’s Top 100 Starting Pitcher Rankings.
Mick Ciallela has been writing for FantraxHQ since July 2017. He has also written for Bleacher Report. He is a lifelong sports fan and has been an avid fantasy sports player for many years. Mick was the Overall Champion of both the 2016 Football Challenge – Roto and 2017 Play 3 Football contests hosted by CDM Sports. Mick was born and raised in Mount Vernon, New York and currently resides in New London, Connecticut.
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