Who Can Unseat Mike Trout in 5 Years? (Fantasy Baseball)
There are few constants in fantasy baseball. Strategies change from year to year. Trends change in the league each year. Players who we draft early will bust, and players who aren’t on our radar during draft season will lead us to a title.
The one absolute constant for the better part of a decade is that every year, Mike Trout goes – or should go – 1.1 in drafts.
There have been some seasons where people got cute and took players like Bryce Harper when he was coming off of his MVP season. Or Jose Altuve in 2018 after his 2017 MVP season. Or 2019, where Mookie Betts was the consensus No. 2 overall pick, but some elected to take him over Trout.
In each instance, it backfired. Trout didn’t necessarily finish as the top player in fantasy in all of those seasons, but he outperformed those who were drafted ahead of him.
We take for granted just how good Trout is, and how he just quietly continues to be the best player in baseball each and every year.
See, you don’t need whomever you pick at 1.1 to finish as the top player in fantasy. You need to pick the player who gives you the best odds to be among the top five players in fantasy. That’s what Trout does each and every year.
But like Miguel Cabrera before him, and Albert Pujols before him, eventually the run at the top is going to end for Trout. It won’t be anytime soon, as Trout is now just entering his prime seasons at age 27, and he just continues to get better and better. If he hasn’t already cemented his status as the best to ever play the game – he is, by the way – he will when it’s all said and done.
When the run at the top does end for Trout, who is going to step up and be the top player for fantasy players year after year?
I have seven-player listed below who could wear that crown when Trout steps off his throne.
Christian Yelich (OF – MIL)
Why Yelich: I mean, have you looked at what he’s done since the start of the 2018 season? Peripherals be damned. Yelich has been the best player in baseball going on two years now. During that stretch, he has 67 home runs, 184 runs, 177 RBIs, 41 stolen bases, a 173 wRC+, and a .328/.418/.653 slash.
Trout, during that time, has 67 home runs, 172 runs, 146 RBIs, 32 stolen bases, a 189 wRC+, and a .307/.457/.637 triple slash. As an overall baseball player – taking into account defense, baserunning, etc. – Trout has been better than Yelich. By fantasy value, you could argue taking Yelich ahead of Trout.
Why Not: They are the same age. Both players are 27, and while Yelich has recently had his breakout after leaving Miami and going to Milwaukee, Trout has been doing Trout things forever in Anaheim. If Yelich sustains this pace even after Trout begins to decline, you can’t expect it to happen for more than a year or two.
Ronald Acuna (OF – ATL)
Why Acuna: Maybe the Braves don’t value Acuna with the laughable contract extension they gave him, but fantasy owners do. Acuna put on a show in the home run derby for fans seeing him for the first time. It wasn’t the jaw-dropping bombs that Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was hitting, but it was the ability to spray the ball all over the field no matter where it was pitched. If I could watch one player just hit, it would be Acuna.
What Acuna offers is an all-around game that is matched by few. In 201 career games, Acuna has 47 home runs, 146 runs, 117 RBIs, 29 steals, a 137 wRC+, and a .293/.371/.531 slash line. Oh, did I mention that he’s just 21 years old? It feels like he’s been overshadowed by guys like Juan Soto, Guerrero, and Fernando Tatis as of late.
Why Not: I’m struggling to find a reason, honestly. Perhaps there’s too much young talent that we can’t for sure say there is one person who will be the consensus pick. Outside of that, Acuna doesn’t have a weakness.
The one weakness he struggled with last year was pitching down and away.
But he’s even adjusted to that so far this year.
He’s a sure-fire bet to be a top-five pick for at least the next decade.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (3B – TOR)
Why Guerrero: Before the season, I said that in a startup dynasty, I would take Guerrero second over behind Trout. I stand by that, and the slow start to his season doesn’t change a thing. Eighty-grade power and hit tools don’t grow on trees. Guerrero is the one player who makes you stop what you’re doing to watch him when he steps up to the plate.
He’s only 20, and pitchers are only giving him 36.1 percent of pitches in the zone. That’s the fewest in the league.
He was the most highly-touted prospect in recent memory, and we can’t let a handful of games change that.
Why Not: There are two things that could hold Guerrero back. One is that lack of stolen bases that he contributes. We’ve seen players like Pujols and Cabrera be consensus top picks for a long time despite having no speed. But that was before stolen bases became a rare species. The other is Guerrero’s build. He’s a big, big guy. A move to first base or designated hitter is likely in the future, and you have to wonder if his body will break down sooner than the competition.
Fernando Tatis (SS – SD)
Why Tatis: He’s basically taken the league by storm since the start of the season. If you asked fantasy players in dynasty leagues who they’d want forever in March, 10/10 would say Vlad over Tatis. Now? Well, I think it might look something like this.
What have you done for me lately, right? Well, all that Tatis has done is mash. Like Acuna, he’s a true all-around contributor. The speed he possesses – and confidence in using that speed, as we’ve recently seen – are uncanny.
If we are redrafting today, Tatis is in my top 15 players I’m taking.
Why Not: Even in an era where high strikeout rates don’t matter as much, I’m still concerned with his 28.6 percent strikeout rate. Also, while expected stats aren’t predictive for future outcomes, you have to do a double-take when you look at Tatis’ expected numbers compared to his actual numbers:
- Actual – .327
- Expected – .240
- Actual – .421
- Expected – .338
- Actual – .620
- Expected – .456
Wander Franco (SS – TB)
Why Wander: The new Vlad – aka top, can’t-miss prospect in baseball – is Franco. Prospect hounds have known about Franco for a couple of years now, but as the new No. 1 prospect in baseball, he’s becoming more mainstream for those casual fantasy players.
FanGraphs gives Franco a 70 FV (Future Value), and projects him to be a five-tool player.
So far, so good.
In High-A, Franco is slashing .448/.500/.759 with two homers, six runs, nine RBIs, and three steals in eight games. That’s after dominating A-ball to the tune of .318/.390/.506 with six homers, 42 runs, 29 RBIs, and 14 steals. Oh, and across the two levels in 70 games, he has 36 walks and 20 strikeouts. That … is absurd.
Why Not: As exciting as Franco is, he just turned 18. Now, I think he’s going to be a legit superstar, but a lot can change between now and five years down the road. The Rays traditionally take it slow with prospects, but they are in a great position to win now, so it shouldn’t shock you if Franco makes an appearance at some point next season.
Shohei Ohtani (DH/SP – LAA)
Why Ohtani: We’ve never seen someone like him. I don’t care about Babe Ruth. I don’t care about Brendan McKay. Neither of them are what Ohtani is. In a daily points league not on Yahoo, I would be more than OK with someone taking Ohtani first overall as soon as next season. We need clarity on his pitching, of course, but when you can get a 30-homer guy who hits for a high average and steals bases as a hitter and pair him with an elite pitcher once a week, you have a distinct advantage over the competition.
Why Not: Ohtani wants to be a two-way player, but even a year and a half in, we don’t know how the Angels will use him over the long haul. We believe that he will come back as a starter in 2020, and he will undoubtedly have his innings managed very closely. He pitched typically once a week in his rookie year – on Sunday’s – and the plan seems to be that he won’t hit the day before, the day of, or the day after he pitches. So that limits him to two to three times in the lineup per week.
Could the Angels use Ohtani as a multi-innings guy, an opener, or a closer? It wouldn’t be wrong or even out of the realm of possibility.
The Angels could even just convert him to a full-time hitter, which he’s proven he’s a superstar despite early panic in his first Spring Training.
The unknown is what holds Ohtani back, but there’s no player on this list who can make quite the impact that he can if everything breaks right.
Mookie Betts (OF – BOS)
Why Mookie: In two of the past three years – not counting this year – Betts was the top player in fantasy. Yes, he toppled the mighty Trout. But in the subsequent follow-up seasons, he’s disappointed by his standards.
He’s putting up decent numbers this year, but if you drafted him second overall, you’re disappointed. The best word to describe Betts is inconsistent.
Why Not: Going back to the beginning of this article, you want someone who will give you guaranteed elite value. While Betts has done that as the No. 1 player before, he hasn’t in his off years. Add to it that he’s only one year younger than Trout, and he may have a small window to claim the crown similar to Yelich.