2018 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Top 50
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2018 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Top 501. Mike Trout, Angels 2. Jose Altuve, Astros 3. Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks 4. Trea Turner, Nationals 5. Charlie Blackmon, Rockies 6. Mookie Betts, Red Sox 7. Nolan Arenado, Rockies 8. Bryce Harper, Nationals 9. Giancarlo Stanton, Yankees 10. Chris Sale, Red Sox 11. Max Scherzer, Nationals 12. Joey Votto, Reds 13. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers 14. Kris Bryant, Cubs 15. Jose Ramirez, Indians 16. Manny Machado, Orioles 17. Francisco Lindor, Indians 18. Carlos Correa, Astros 19. Corey Kluber, Indians 20. Dee Gordon, Mariners 21. J.D. Martinez, Free Agent 22. George Springer, Astros 23. Aaron Judge, Yankees 24. Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays 25. Freddie Freeman, Braves 26. Anthony Rizzo, Cubs 27. Madison Bumgarner, Giants 28. Cody Bellinger, Dodgers 29. Zack Greinke, Diamondbacks 30. Corey Seager, Dodgers 31. Brian Dozier, Twins 32. Gary Sanchez, Yankees 33. Justin Verlander, Astros 34. Noah Syndergaard, Mets 35. Stephen Strasburg, Nationals 36. Carlos Carrasco, Indians 37. Jacob deGrom, Mets 38. Justin Upton, Angels 39. Starling Marte, Pirates 40. Anthony Rendon, Nationals 41. Jose Abreu, White Sox 42. Khris Davis, Athletics 43. Luis Severino, Yankees 44. Edwin Encarnacion, Indians 45. Nelson Cruz, Mariners 46. Billy Hamilton, Reds 47. Chris Archer, Rays 48. Carlos Martinez, Cardinals 49. Alex Bregman, Astros 50. Andrew Benintendi, Red Sox
Jose Ramirez, Indians (#15) - The question most people will be asking themselves when it comes to Jose Ramirez in 2018 is "Were the power numbers real?". However, while the jump from 11 home runs to 29 may seem like a natural cause for concern, its important to remember the high floor the 25 year-old infielder brings to the table in other categories. Ramirez differentiated himself from standard archetypes by not only being one of ten qualified players to have a strikeout rate below 12%, but by leading those ten with a .265 ISO - a figure only Joey Votto came within 50 points of. Yet, even if that power regresses next season, the strikeout rate alone has value. Ramirez has hit .315 across the past two seasons with a high-contact approach and is even just a slightly-lucky BABIP year away from owning a batting title. Toss in roughly 20 stolen bases, a premium lineup spot on a team that scored 818 runs in 2017, and multi-position eligibility; and you're left with a fringe first round selection with a lower risk than some people are willing to see.
Brian Dozier, Twins (#31) - For as important as ratios are, sometimes the greatest asset a fantasy commodity can have is just showing up, and that's exactly what Brian Dozier has done the past four seasons. The second baseman has 2,807 plate appearances over that span of time - the most of any player. Sure, a .254 average over that run doesn't scream "superstar", but, with a massive 89.2% of those PAs coming while batting leadoff or second in the Twins order, its the counting stats that give Dozier some elite company. Since 2014, Dozier ranks behind only Mike Trout in runs (423), is 12th in home runs (127), and sits 27th in stolen bases (67). In fact, only four players have 350+ runs, 100+ home runs, and 50+ steals over that same time frame: Trout, Paul Goldschmidt, Charlie Blackmon, and Dozier. Plus, if you're really pining for a five-category guy in Round 3, with Dozier's fly ball rate trending away from the extreme end of the spectrum and his 2017 O-Swing% by far a career-best, it wouldn't even take the most optimistic prospective drafter to envision a .275+ batting average. While some players in this tier might carry a higher upside, few come safer than Dozier.
Justin Verlander, Astros (#33) - Let's nitpick for a second. How does one maintain a 1.95 ERA over 101.1 second half innings? Well, a 96.9% strand rate and .211 BABIP sure do help. Verlander led baseball in three things following the All-Star break: LOB%, BABIP, and negative ERA/FIP disparity. Generally, these aren't things we celebrate in the off-season, yet this case specifically stands as a study for a principle Dr. Aubrey Graham has been philosophizing about since 2013 - its all about where you start from. Is Verlander ever going to be as good over a 100-inning sample as he was to close out 2017? Probably not. However, when normalization kicks in, is he still a Top 10 starting pitcher? Obviously. Verlander's second half accolades also included walking only 1.87 batters per nine, relegating his over four walks per nine from the first half into the aberration zone; Verlander won ten of his final 12 starts and will continue to pitch for a team likely to challenge for 100 wins; and, most importantly, Verlander struck out 31.7% of opponents. You know what rationalizes a high strand rate? Strikeouts. You know what limits the impact of balls in play? Strikeouts. You know what is the lifeblood of fantasy baseball? Strikeouts. ...and, well, innings. Only 15 pitchers threw 200+ innings in 2017, down from 28 pitchers in 2015 and 45 pitchers in 2010. Verlander, has thrown over 200-innings in ten of 11 seasons since 2007. Durability is more of a factor now than ever and Verlander is the dictionary definition of a workhorse. I'd trust him over Noah Syndergaard and Stephen Strasburg in a tier full of talent, but also full of injury question marks.
Starling Marte, Pirates (#39) - Its difficult to really assess Starling Marte's 2017 season considering there's a 80-game hole in it's middle, but, with Marte returning to Pittsburgh a week after the All-Star break, the second half seems like a good place to start. Over 280 plate appearances, the outfielder hit .282 with five home runs, 41 runs scored, and 19 stolen bases - all washing out to an underwhelming 94 wRC+. The advanced stuff doesn't matter so much with Marte, though. No one's expecting the power numbers to suddenly appear as some mistakenly did in 2016 - Marte is an extreme ground ball hitter who holds the 12th-lowest fly ball rate of any active player with 2,000+ PAs. No, the only thing to expect is a three-category contributor with a heavy emphasis on the steals. If you prorate those 280 post All-Star plate appearances to 600, Marte was on pace for 41 SB in 2017 - a number that would have been good for fourth-best in baseball. Its that sort of hypothetical single-category dominance that also brings league and team construct into the equation. Marte is a Rotisserie and Head-to-Head fixture, yet that value slips in Points formats. Still, if you can get him in the right spot, the lifelong Pirate presents an intriguing opportunity to own a plus-speed player who's not a complete negative with the bat - I'm looking at you Billy Hamilton.
Edwin Encarnacion, Indians (#44) - Let Edwin Encarnacion serve as a public service announcement for all players above the age of 35 - even with the immediate returns we've seen from prospect after prospect, there's still a value in drafting what you know, despite "what you know" having a more fixed and concrete ceiling. Since 2015, only two players have hit more home runs than the former Blue Jay: Nolan Arenado and, the man who comes in right below Encarnacion in my rankings, Nelson Cruz. Over that same span of time, Encarnacion also leads the American League with 345 RBI - a distinction he holds by 28 runs over, you guessed it, Cruz. Now, the past does not make one impervious to the future. As Jose Bautista, Encarnacion's old running mate, can attest, a horrendous slide to mediocrity or worse is in store for us all at a certain point. The warning signs appeared to be there in early 2017 for Encarnacion. He struck out in 33% of his 106 April plate appearances, yet that figure shrunk to a more than respectable 16.9% mark in the year's second half. Actually, Encarnacion was one of only seven players to walk more than he struck out past the Mid-Summer Classic, doing so with a .280 ISO and .382 wOBA. Its not as if he's a sexy pick in a dynasty league, but Encarnacion still has plenty left in the tank heading into 2018.
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