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What’s that? Football has started?

Well, dang. Guess draft prep is over, then.

That’s the best part, isn’t it? Assembling your team? I mean, the Fantasy season is pretty much downhill from there.

You Fantasy Baseball owners know what I’m talking about. You’ve about reached the end of that hill. Shoot, some of you bottomed out weeks ago and have only been able to daydream about next year.

Allow me to help you with that.

In the interest of both filling the draft void and adding some structure to your fantasies (lower-case), I give you my projected first two rounds for 2017. These are absolutely final and won’t see the slightest adjustment between now and April.

Just kidding. Brian Dozier could hit five home runs tomorrow and turn the whole thing upside-down.

Round 1

1. Mike Trout OF / Los Angeles Angels (2016 season)

BA: .319HR: 27SB: 25OPS: .996FPPG: 3.99

His diverse skill set makes Mike Trout almost incapable of an off year. When he steals fewer bases, as in 2015, he hits more home runs as if to make up for it. When he hits fewer home runs, like this year, he steals more bases. Even when he’s not the top hitter, he’s so close that you don’t really care.

2. Mookie Betts OF / Boston Red Sox (2016 season)

BA: .311HR: 30SB: 23OPS: .895FPPG: 4.16

Mookie Betts has become near Trout-level in terms of across-the-board skills, though he’s of course less proven as a power hitter. His low average distance on his home runs may raise some doubts, even playing his half his games at Fenway Park, but like Trout, he can afford some slack in one area.

3. Jose Altuve 2B / Houston Astros (2016 season)

BA: .340HR: 24SB: 27OPS: .950FPPG: 4.06

Jose Altuve is clearly in the running to go first overall based on this year’s performance, but have you noticed how his base-stealing has slowed with his surge in power? Looking for faults in a diamond here, but the most volatile categories, steals and batting average, are the ones that will carry him.

4. Josh Donaldson 3B / Toronto Blue Jays (2016 season)

BA: .284HR: 34R: 112OPS: .952FPPG: 3.99

Josh Donaldson is the only first-rounder on the wrong side of 30, which itself presents some risk, but he has performed at an MVP level four years in a row and has been a fixture in the best-player-in-baseball talk since setting foot in Toronto. If only he could steal bases, like the three ahead of him.

5. Paul Goldschmidt 1B / Arizona Diamondbacks (2016 season)

BA: .302HR: 20SB: 25OPS: .912FPPG: 3.68

Paul Goldschmidt can steal bases, and believe it or not, it has become his defining characteristic in a down year power-wise. He’s sort of Betts’ worst case played out, and hey, he’s still a top-15 hitter in both points and categories. At 28, he hasn’t had his last 30-homer season.

6. Nolan Arenado 3B / Colorado Rockies (2016 season)

BA: .293HR: 37RBI: 121OPS: .934FPPG: 3.95

You could make a case for Nolan Arenado over Goldschmidt, especially if stolen bases aren’t required in your league (e.g., any points format). After all, you’ll have fewer choices at third base than at first base in Rounds 2 and 3.

7. Kris Bryant 3B/OF / Chicago Cubs (2016 season)

BA: .297HR: 37R: 113OPS: .956FPPG: 3.88

Kris Bryant has been more or less as good as Arenado this year but strikes out 50 percent more often, which makes him a bigger liability. Of course, Arenado is the bigger outlier than Bryant as far as that goes, so I don’t honestly worry about regression for the likely NL MVP. The dual eligibility is nice.

8. Manny Machado 3B/SS / Baltimore Orioles (2016 season)

BA: .305HR: 35SB: 0OPS: .918FPPG: 3.62

Speaking of dual eligibility, Manny Machado can be drafted as a shortstop next year, which … er, would have meant more coming into this year. Still, it and third base figure to be weaker than first and second base, and his production is only half a step behind Arenado and Bryant.

9. Anthony Rizzo 1B / Chicago Cubs (2016 season)

BA: .289HR: 29RBI: 98OPS: .928FPPG: 3.64

He’s easy to overlook amid the Bryant hype, but Anthony Rizzo has been a first round-caliber player longer. His supporting cast will keep his runs and RBI high, ensuring that the home run category isn’t the only one where he stands out.

10. Bryce Harper OF / Washington Nationals (2016 season)

BA: .247HR: 24SB: 21OPS: .835FPPG: 3.43

Bryce Harper has looked much better since resting his balky shoulder for a week in mid-August, and of course, he was everything we drafted him to be in April. His strikeout-to-walk ratio shows he hasn’t forgotten how to hit and maybe just needs an offseason to get healthy. We haven’t seen the last of him as a top-five player.

11. Corey Seager SS / Los Angeles Dodgers (2016 season)

BA: .319HR: 25RBI: 69OPS: .911FPPG: 3.26

A suspiciously low RBI total has muted Corey Seager ‘s Fantasy appeal, making him perhaps better appreciated in real life, but at 22, he’s looking like a perennial MVP candidate at a historically weak position. The slam-dunk first-rounders end with Pick 10, so why not trust in some RBI correction and continued growth?

12. Clayton Kershaw SP / Los Angeles Dodgers (2016 season)

ERA: 1.89WHIP: 0.75IP: 124K: 150FPPG: 25.29

How Clayton Kershaw closes out this season will say a lot about the state of his back, which is the only reason he’s not in the discussion for first overall. Then, there’s the question of offseason surgery. By the time you actually draft, Kershaw may have risen or fallen 5-10 spots.

Round 2

13. Carlos Correa SS / Houston Astros (2016 season)

BA: .272HR: 19SB: 12OPS: .817FPPG: 3.13

A disappointment only by our unreasonable expectations, Carlos Correa is still ahead of where Manny Machado was at the same age — and with a comparable ceiling. He won’t ruin you at this spot even if he stagnates, and improvement is more likely anyway.

14. Charlie Blackmon OF / Colorado Rockies (2016 season)

BA: .316HR: 26SB: 16OPS: .918FPPG: 3.79

Rotisserie owners may have preferred the 40-steal version, but Charlie Blackmon has become a better overall player this year — and with home/away splits that suggest the unlikely scenario of a trade wouldn’t ruin him. Just don’t judge him for his counting stats; a pair of injuries pulled those down.

15. Miguel Cabrera 1B / Detroit Tigers (2016 season)

BA: .309HR: 32RBI: 89OPS: .930FPPG: 3.35

Though he has actually reversed his downward trend as a power hitter, putting together his most productive season since his MVP-winning 2013 campaign, the league-wide offensive resurgence still pushes Miguel Cabrera to the second round. The fact he’ll be 34 next year doesn’t help.

16. Max Scherzer SP / Washington Nationals (2016 season)

ERA: 2.78WHIP: 0.92IP: 203 2/3K: 251FPPG: 20.88

The best pitcher not named Kershaw is also the next most likely to put together a 300-strikeout season. Max Scherzer has excellent control, a terrific supporting cast and no durability issues to speak of, so the only question is whether or not you’re open to taking a pitcher this early.

17. Joey Votto 1B / Cincinnati Reds (2016 season)

BA: .318HR: 24OBP: .434OPS: .965FPPG: 3.53

Joey Votto was batting .213 at the start of June. Let that sink in for a minute. His 2015 unfolded in a similarly unconventional manner, which can make him frustrating to own, especially if you count on big home run and RBI production from your first baseman, but the end results make Votto unquestionably elite.

He’ll be 34 next year and quite possibly with a new team, so already that’s two reasons to rank Edwin Encarnacion behind four other players at his position. He’s always drafted in the middle of the second round, though, and then performs like he was drafted in the middle of the first. Can’t let him fall too far.

19. Madison Bumgarner SP / San Francisco Giants (2016 season)

ERA: 2.61WHIP: 1.04IP: 199 2/3K: 226FPPG: 18.80

One of most perennially underrated Fantasy pitchers (which is weird given his postseason exploits) is gradually moving up the list if only by virtue of others sliding down it. Unless you think another deep postseason run would do Madison Bumgarner in, which would be nothing more than a wild guess, he’s worry-free.

20. Daniel Murphy 1B/2B / Washington Nationals (2016 season)

BA: .347HR: 25K: 56OPS: .990FPPG: 3.83

Probably the most difficult of these players to rank. Between his transformation late in 2015, his consistency throughout 2016, his well-documented mechanical changes and his longstanding contact skills, I’m mostly buying Daniel Murphy ‘s production. But you can’t look past the track records of the hitters ahead of him, especially with second base being such a deep position.

21. Brian Dozier 2B / Minnesota Twins (2016 season)

BA: .280HR: 40SB: 14OPS: .929FPPG: 3.88

If we were ranking players based on their second-half numbers, Brian Dozier would be the top overall pick, but he’s so sold out for power, his fly-ball and pull rates ranking among the highest in the league, that he gives himself a thin margin for error. He’s less combustible here and not an outrageous bargain given the depth at second base.

22. George Springer OF / Houston Astros (2016 season)

BA: .253HR: 26SB: 9OPS: .809FPPG: 3.21

George Springer isn’t a surefire second-rounder, but if you’re going to reach at a position, outfield is the one. Some weird ground ball-to-fly ball issues have sold him short power-wise, so I kind of like the pairing with Altuve, a risky power source, in Rotisserie leagues.

23. Matt Carpenter 1B/2B/3B / St. Louis Cardinals (2016 season)

BA: .276HR: 19BB: 72OPS: .910FPPG: 3.37

Up there with Murphy in terms of difficulty to rank, Matt Carpenter is better in points leagues than categories, but if an oblique injury hadn’t sapped his power here in the second half, it’d be closer than you think. Plus, he’s the only bridge between the super studs and also-rans at third base, making him a player to reach for.

24. Chris Sale SP / Chicago White Sox (2016 season)

ERA: 3.04WHIP: 1.02IP: 201 2/3K: 205FPPG: 19.63

His growing willingness to pitch to contact may have lowered his overall ceiling, but Chris Sale is still a good strikeout pitcher — and one better equipped to handle an ace workload. He feels like a safer Round 2 pick than a year ago, if a less exciting one.

Notable omissions

Buster Posey C / San Francisco Giants (2016 season)

BA: .287HR: 12K: 58OPS: .801FPPG: 3.02

Hedidn’t disappoint with a second-round pick this year, but Buster Posey isn’t the standout he once was at catcher with Jonathan Lucroy and Wilson Ramos closing the gap. Those three will still go early, but now that it’s three instead of one, not as early.

A.J. Pollock OF / Arizona Diamondbacks (2015 season)

BA: .315HR: 20SB: 39OPS: .865FPPG: 3.64

Kind of a speedier but less Coors-enhanced version of Blackmon when he’s healthy, A.J. Pollock needed a September for the ages to climb back into the second round after losing most of 2016 to a fractured elbow. That dream may have already ended because of a strained groin.

Corey Kluber SP / Cleveland Indians (2016 season)

ERA: 3.05WHIP: 1.04IP: 197 2/3K: 208FPPG: 18.97

The next pitcher in line doesn’t have the spotless track record of the first four, but Corey Kluber is a safer projection for the innings and strikeouts required of a Fantasy ace than Jose Fernandez , Noah Syndergaard or even Jake Arrieta .

Xander Bogaerts SS / Boston Red Sox (2016 season)

BA: .299HR: 19SB: 13OPS: .802FPPG: 3.37

You do know Xander Bogaerts is hitting .251 with a .698 OPS over his last 77 games, right? And seeing as his year-long BABIP is still .340, I’m thinking it’s more a regression to the mean than a slump.


Source: CBS Sports Headlines / Fantasy Baseball: Projecting the first two rounds of the 2017 draft