The Top 30 for 2019 by Paul Sporer July 25, 2018 Every year around this time, I like to look at how the top of the draft is shaping up for the following season and today is that day! Today I also guested with Van Lee and our own Jeff Zimmerman on their podcast, Launch Angle, so give that a listen! I’m not exactly trying to predict the Top 30 in the exact order they will go, but rather giving an early look at how my board is shaping up right now. 1. Mike Trout, OF, LAA Let’s all point and laugh at those who tried to get cute and take someone else #1 this year. I can give a slight pass to those who took an ace first because of how impactful elite starters are, but the hitters taken over Trout at 1 didn’t make sense then and look especially misguided now 2. Mookie Betts, OF, BOS Betts wasn’t his best self last year thanks in large part to a .264 AVG, but he also hit 24 HR… the same total he has right now in 70 fewer games! If you’ve listened to the podcast or read my work regularly, you know I push back on using BABIP as a luck-o-meter as if the player has zero control over it, but Betts’ 2017 was a case of BABIP bad luck that showed no signs of sticking around. Not only has he reversed course on the .264 AVG from last year, but he’s now leading baseball at .351! 3. Jose Ramirez, 3B/2B, CLE I think some still overlook or don’t realize that Ramirez is 25. His keystone partner is seen as the baby-faced foundational piece for Cleveland, but he’s just a year younger than Ramirez (more on him later). Ramirez has backed up all of his excellence from last year and already eclipsed his 29 HR/17 SB totals from last year at 30 HR/20 SB. Oh yeah, and he’s done it in 99 games. He played 152 last year 4. Nolan Arenado, 3B, COL Ho-hum, just quietly obliterating the league again. He has improved his OPS every single year: .706, .828, .898, .932, .959, and an NL-best .983 mark right now. 5. Francisco Lindor, SS, CLE Lindor’s season is panning out perfectly. The hope coming into the season was that he could hold his power gains while also regaining his batting average and that’s exactly what he’s done. He already has 25 homers and has set another career-high in ISO at .268 while also jumping up to .291 after last year’s solid-but-unspectacular .273 mark. 6. Jose Altuve, 2B, HOU He’s been a disappointment against expectations and yet he’s still 18th on the Auction Calculator and 23rd on ESPN’s Player Rater. The ISO has actually dipped below even his 2015 mark (.146) when he hit 15 homers. It’s at .133 this year. 7. J.D. Martinez, OF, BOS Since the start of last year, Martinez is third in homers with 76 and he has 220 fewer plate appearances than both guys ahead of him (Giancarlo Stanton 82, Aaron Judge 78). His health had to drop him a few spots as he’s topped 123 games just once and turns 31 next year, but the production is just absurd. 8. Freddie Freeman, 1B, ATL Yes, he absolutely is Joey Votto now. Right down to the sneak-tip speed at first base. Freeman has six this year after swiping 14 in 2016-17 combined. 9. Aaron Judge, OF, NYY “He can’t maintain a .357 BABIP so his AVG has to come down!” :posts a .375 BABIP and drops his average a whole .001 to .283: 10. Manny Machado, SS, Pending FA Machado could add 3B eligibility back into the mix for next year if he plays 18 more games there. His first two have been at the hot corner with the Dodgers. Regardless of his eligibility, he’s a monster hitter to put in your infield. 11.-13. Chris Sale, SP, BOS; Max Scherzer, SP, WAS; Luis Severino, SP, NYY My top three starters going into next year are probably on the table as easy as Freeman for many, but I’m probably waiting until a double-digit pick. I know Scherzer will be 34 next year, but he’s just so incredible that it’s hard to see why he’d slow down. Severino’s follow up to last year’s breakout is almost an exact replica. 14. Bryce Harper, OF, WAS But he’s hitting .215! If you watch Bryce Harper play baseball and think he does anything that deserves a .215 AVG and not a mark at least 60 points higher, you’re watching it wrong. 15. Trea Turner, SS, WAS The .263 AVG is disappointing and while the 22 SBs might also feel disappointing, he’s tied for the fourth most in the league. He’s not winning you the category outright, but you shouldn’t be lagging with him. Steals are just incredibly rare so being in the low-to-mid 20s has you near the top of the leaderboard. 16. Giancarlo Stanton, OF, NYY As I mentioned earlier, he leads the league in homers since the start of last year with 82. Since his bumpy April, he has a .304 AVG and 18 HR (42 full season pace). 17. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, ARI You can’t even tell that he had that wretched May (.531 OPS) when looking at his line. He did stop running though with just three in five attempts after going 71-for-86 the last three years. 18. Charlie Blackmon, OF, COL Not just leaning on Coors with an .807 OPS and 13 HR on the road. 19. Alex Bregman, 3B, HOU He’ll need 12 more games at SS to retain that eligibility. I wonder if he’s just always going to start slowly: 2016: .169 AVG, .469 OPS in first 20 games as a big leaguer; .319, .976 after 2017: .250, .650 in April; .290, .858 after 2018: .259, .741 in April; .294, .997 since 20. Andrew Benintendi, OF, BOS Sometimes the prospect growth is linear! Benintendi has built on his strong rookie season (20 HR/20 SB in 658 PA) with across the board improvements. He’s got a .302/.386/.520 line with 14 HR and 17 SB in 425 PA. The Next 10: 21. Starling Marte, OF, PIT: His power surge has legitimacy throughout his batted ball profile and when paired with the speed, makes him a fantasy superstar. 22. Javier Baez, 2B/SS, CHC: It feels like we’ve been waiting on him forever, but he’s just 25 and this is a perfectly reasonable trajectory into his first superstar season. It’s a scary profile to buy because the plate approach breeds volatility, but a 25% K rate just doesn’t bother me these days. 23. Jacob deGrom, SP, NYM: Hopefully he’s no longer a Met. 24. Ozzie Albies, 2B, ATL: How is he only 21? 25. Justin Verlander, SP, HOU: Age is the only real concern, but he hasn’t shown any age deterioration this year. 26. Kris Bryant, 3B, CHC: Admittedly, it hasn’t been a great season, but I still see a profile to buy. 27. Gerrit Cole, SP, HOU: No, he likely won’t lead baseball with a 5.7 H/9 again next year (assuming he even holds onto the lead this year), but I believe this surge. His stuff is incredible and it’s the Cole we’ve been waiting for since he entered the league. I can see this season being a jump off into a Scherzering of Cole. 28. Aaron Nola, SP, PHI: The hype will soar when he has a strong playoff in October. 29. Corey Kluber, SP, CLE: I know he’s still got a fantastic 2.88 ERA and 0.95 WHIP, but I just worry a bit about his mid-30s with a terrible fastball. Of this whole group, he’s the one I could see dropping several rounds with a clunky finish to this season. 30. Clayton Kershaw, SP, LAD: He’s still just so good on a per inning basis that I think I could get behind taking him at the 2-3 turn after picking first. — Who would you include that I didn’t and which draft spot is looking best to you for 2019 at this point?