The following is the first set of rankings as we head into the Major League Baseball offseason. Those of you like me who have keeper leagues are always looking toward the next season, making plans on how to approach the following season as early as July, whether or not a title is on the horizon.
Now we all have to wait several painful months without baseball, so it’s time to dive in and rank players with an eye toward opening day. These will change throughout the offseason as players sign new contracts and other storylines develop. Here is the first edition of our top 200 rankings (based on standard 5×5 scoring categories):
Mike Trout is, and will continue to be, the best baseball player on the planet.
Goldschmidt may fall in the eyes of many, but he shouldn’t. He’s the rare breed of 1B who will hit for average and power while also stealing more bases than he looks like he should be able to. Expect a slight dip in steals with an uptick in home runs. He’s as reliable as they come.
Cabrera is somehow underrated. My first instinct was to put Encarnacion above him, but while the power and production is comparable, Cabrera has hit below .300 only twice over a full season and never worse than .292. Cabrera has also remained fairly durable and saw his home runs sniff 40 again after seemingly losing some of his pop.
You can make an argument that, at 30, Stanton is ranked too low or too high. At some point, the regularity of his injuries have to impact where he is drafted. Those who burned a first-round pick on him in 2016 wound up trying to fill the void all season. His power profile is tantalizing – he has hit 54 home runs over his last 193 games – but if he’s not on the field, he can’t help you win.
Price’s playoff woes notwithstanding, his 2016 campaign wasn’t so much bad as it was disappointing relative to expectations. He still threw 230 innings, topping 200 for the sixth time in seven seasons. Price will offer a healthy dose of strikeouts and his durability is a godsend when few SPs can last as long as him. Even if his ERA doesn’t return to normal, he’s a borderline top-10 SP.
Archer will rebound. His 9-19 record was exacerbated by poor run support and a dreadful start to the season. After the All-Star Game, Archer was a more reasonable 5-7 with a 3.25 ERA. One thing that stayed consistent was his K/9, which finished at 10.42 over 201.1 innings.
Bautista has been a consensus early-round selection for several years now, but his injury-plagued and inconsistent 2016 will have buyers cautious. He still had an OBP within the top 30 and he hit 22 home runs despite being hobbled. The injuries seemed to be more in line with bad luck than with his body decomposing, so a rebound could be in the cards.
Hamilton is one-dimensional, but he will win you steals all by himself as long as he stays on the field. That kind of market dominance is worth this early an investment. I’m hesitant to list four RPs this early, but these are the cream of the crop. Assuming Jansen and Chapman re-sign or go to different winning teams, their value should stay around here. There is room for a drop, though.
It’s fair to be skeptical of Ramirez, but if he can show growth or even simply repeat what he did in 2016, he’ll earn his top-100 designation. He has speed and showed he can hit for a great average while hitting a few long balls in the process. He’s also a candidate for regression, which is why he isn’t higher.
Upton hit 22 of his 31 home runs in the second half of the season. He was one of the best buy-low candidates of 2015. He could be higher, but he’s so maddeningly inconsistent. Half the season he’s a top-20 player while the other half he’s fantasy irrelevant. He could rise up these standings, but it’s best to remember not to trust the most recent numbers without scrutiny.
Trumbo’s value will depend on too many factors to endorse him as a top-100 player. He strikes out too much, he hits for a low batting average on the whole, and if he signs with a team that doesn’t have a ballpark that plays to his strengths, he might be in trouble. The 47 home runs might be a mirage.
Bregman will be multi-position-eligible and could continue to build on his rise after a horrendous debut. He’s on the fast track to the top.
Brantley’s skills should have him higher than teammate Jose Ramirez, but his injury-plagued 2016 is too worrisome. Cain is another post-injury sleeper who still managed to steal 14 bases and hit .287 in 103 games this past season. His ceiling is lower than Brantley’s, but he has missed less time.
If Gray pitched for any other team, he’d be ranked higher. He finished 2016 with a 4.61 ERA, but his 3.60 FIP suggests he was much better. He will register a ton of strikeouts (9.91 K/9) and be a fine matchups option. It’s unlikely Napoli repeats his 2016 numbers, but depending on where he lands he’ll offer solid power with a middling-to-poor batting average.
Whether it was only a lingering injury or also his move to the American League, Pomeranz was a completely different pitcher after leaving San Diego. He has upside, but he’s far from a guarantee. Miller is the only non-closer in the rankings. That designation may only be temporary or we’re finally entering a post-closer world. Unlikely, but Miller is elite and will help buoy several stats.
Miller’s position eligibility will make your head spin. That versatility combined with his power and increased playing time means he needs to be drafted. Franco’s stock has fallen, but he’s a depth 3B option with serious power. If he bounces back, he will make a solid trade candidate or make it easier to part with your first choice.
Pederson is a breakout candidate after making some nice adjustments in his game. He still needs to cut down on the strikeouts and get a little more patient, but he’s not going to be a complete black hole in batting average. The catcher pool is dire, and if you missed out on Posey, Sanchez and Lucroy, this is the time to jump, but each has his weaknesses.
Gray and Keuchel are both bounce-back candidates after mostly forgettable seasons. They’re worth speculative looks, as are Samardzija and Wainwright, but there is considerable risk. Keuchel was steadily touted as a regression candidate after his breakout and Gray was ineffective any time he was healthy enough to toe the rubber.
The jury is still out on Healy, but the 13 home runs he swatted in 72 games, eight of which came in Oakland, will be enough to warrant a late-round selection. He made adjustments to his swing before 2016, and the power could be the real deal.
Remember Bird? He hit 11 home runs in 178 PAs in 2015 and promptly got injured in spring training, forcing him to miss the entire 2016 campaign. He’s a great final-round sleeper in deep leagues and keepers. Iglesias’ value will rise if he gets stretched out to start again. The Reds won’t be in the position to win many games, so if he’s a reliever, he should not be drafted.
Puig is the personification of unfulfilled potential. He’s only 25. If the Dodgers have given up on him, and he gets a chance to start somewhere else, he could return top value.