We, at Baseball Prospectus, have been talking about hot corner denizens for a while now (three days and change to be exact, depending on when you are reading this) and the party continues to rage on. Yet before we rage, we shall calibrate—since rankings aren’t useful without knowing what you’re reading. The list you are about to read here presupposes a 16-team standard (read: 5×5 roto) dynasty format, in which there are no contracts/salaries, players can be kept forever, and owners have minor-league farm systems in which to hoard prospects. So feel free to adjust this as necessary for your individual league, whether it’s moving non-elite prospects without 2016 ETAs down if you don’t have separate farm teams or moving lower-risk, lower-reward players up in deeper mixed or -only formats.
We’ve finally gotten to a position that is nice and deep. Instead of fumbling through the last 20 names or so, this list includes players who are usable in fantasy leagues this year and prospects who stand a chance to be above-average contributors down the line. Add to that the elite tier at the top and the additions of Miguel Sano, Anthony Rendon, and Alex Bregman from other positions along with the top 2016 signeed in Nick Senzel and the most immediate contributor to enter MLB in Yulieski Gurriel gives a depth we haven’t seen at this position in years. Even losing Manny Machado doesn’t seem so bad (ok fine, he’s amazing so maybe not). The stars are relatively young, the prospects are improving and the elder statesmen are bouncing back. The hot corner is firing on all cylinders these days. Let’s just see how long it stays that way, as we’re not far removed from it being a bit of a wasteland.
I can’t hold back my excitement anymore:
The only argument for Bryant not to occupy the top spot is circumstance, but Arenado would be hard-pressed to top him even at 8,000 feet above sea level. The reigning MVP took a huge step forward in his contact rate, lowering his strikeout rate by eight percentage points and keeping all of the power. He even steals a handful of bases to boot.
Holding Coors Field against Arenado is silly because he’s going to be there for a while. And it’s also silly because he’s led the NL in home runs and RBI each of the past two seasons. A continued incline in fly-ball rate has led to the back-to-back 40-homer seasons, but any step back there could reduce him to “only” a 30-odd-homer guy. I know we’re picking nits. Don’t look at me like that.
The last of the “big three,” Donaldson gets overlooked a little because of his age. However, this is unwise. Unsurprisingly, his batting average has held steadily in the .280-plus range after leaving Oakland and its extreme foul territory. Combine that with a ton of counting stats and 35-plus homers, and you see why him already being 31 just isn’t that important in this context.
5) Miguel Sano, Minnesota Twins
6) Anthony Rendon, Washington Nationals
It’s really not fair. I want to write up full blurbs on all of these guys. Seager is the model of consistency as you can pencil him in for a .275 average, 25 homers and really strong counting stats each of the next 3-4 years. Sano is almost the complete opposite, as he’s a monster when he can make enough contact, but he’s just another low-average power guy in an age of many when he can’t. This ranking is a telltale sign that I think the strikeouts will come down and the 40-homer power will shine in Minnesota now that his outfield experiment has graciously come to an end. Long one of my favorite players (and prospects before that), Rendon is extremely solid when healthy—hitting 20-plus homers and stealing 10-plus bases in his full seasons—but the risk is still there even after two 150 game seasons in three years. That said, there’s also still upside here, as I fully expect him to hit over .300 one of these seasons.
7) Alex Bregman, Houston Astros
How this ranking looks in two years will depend on just how much of that power is real. If he’s a 12-homer hitter, this feels a little aggressive. If he can hit 20 bombs, it might even seem a big light. Either way, the batting average is real and will only get better from here. Expect him to be a .290 hitter as soon as this year and contend for higher in time.
The onslaught of fly balls from Longoria in 2016 helped him reestablish his power bat and the approach change suggests it’s sustainable enough to push him to another 30-homer campaign in 2017. Don’t default to thinking he’s a fluke. Devers is the guy Boston kept when dealing the rest of the system away for major leaguers. That means something. So does the fact that he could be a plus hitter with plus power in a couple of years. Franco always has his home park to fall back on, but his combination of power, contact and youth make him a nice investment this offseason in dynasty leagues. Turner and Beltre kind of fall into the same boat as strong average and good power bats fighting against biases in the fantasy marketplace. The former wasn’t much of a prospect and surely wasn’t supposed to do this. The latter is old. That’s really all you’ve got there.
13) Nick Senzel, Cincinnati Reds
The top dynasty league prospect available in drafts this year, Senzel offers a great combination of upside, proximity, safety and attractive contextual factors. He’s unlikely to be a superstar in any one category, but has a really well rounded skill set that could lead him to be a top-five option at the position. A 20/20 future with a helpful batting average is within reach here.
16) Joey Gallo, Texas Rangers
There’s a legitimate argument to putting any of these five names at the top of this tier. Castellanos is still only 24 and started really tapping into some of that power last year. The strikeout rate still looks too high to be a future .300 hitter, but .280 and 20 with a slew of RBI ain’t bad either. Frazier is the best current player on this list, but has the potential to start falling off due to declining contact rates and the likelihood he’ll stop running at any moment. Forty homers is great, and it was, but power alone just doesn’t carry the same value it did three years ago. Speaking of power, Gallo remains a question mark once again. The 40-homer power is very real, but he struck out in 19 of his 30 major league at bats last season. He needs an extended trial to show he can keep his whiff rate in the 30’s. Ramirez is the anti-Gallo in just about every way, as he makes extreme contact, can hit for average, steal some bases and can touch a bit of power to boot. His 2016 line may be his high water mark, but a .300 average and 20 steals are achievable again. Moustakas is a huge question mark, as he was finally establishing himself before missing almost all of 2016 due to injury. We’ll see where he picks back up, but in his last 174 games (between 2015 and 2016), he hit .277 with 29 homers and just 89 strikeouts in 727 plate appearances.
19) Yulieski Gurriel, Houston Astros
20) Jurickson Profar, Texas Rangers
These are two players I’m likely higher on than most. Gurriel gets a mulligan for his transition year, but is only 18 months removed from putting up just a stupid line in Cuba (.500/.589/.874 with 15 homers and just three strikeouts in 224 plate appearances). He brought the contact skills with him to Houston, but needs to tap into a little more of the power, which he is capable of doing. It’s a shame we didn’t see him come to MLB in his prime. Profar, on the other hand, has seen most take off the other way from his bandwagon and amazingly he’s still only 23. Playing time and production levels are in question, but another year removed from his layoff will get him closer to what we thought he might be.
23) Brandon Drury, Arizona Diamondbacks
25) Vladimir Guerrero Jr, Toronto Blue Jays
26) Hernan Perez, Milwaukee Brewers
We’ll just call this group the tier of risk. Kang’s legal troubles are well documented, leaving his status for this season up in the air. Without that, he’s an easy top-15 option given his developing power. Lamb either looks way too low if you believe his first half was his talent level or way too high if you believe in the gospel of his second half slump. Both Drury and Perez can be strong contributors right now and still have age on their side, assuming they can get the playing time they need to do so. Neither is guaranteed anything right now. Then Erceg and Guerrero, despite lofty ceilings, are years away—with the latter likely ending up at first base.
30) Ryan McMahon, Colorado Rockies
32) Jose Reyes, New York Mets
33) Eugenio Suarez, Cincinnati Reds
If you’d told any dynasty leaguers 12 months ago that Healy would have surpassed McMahon on this list, they’d look at you like you had five heads, but that’s where we are. That said, don’t get too excited about the new Bay Area slugger or too down on the Rockies’ farmhand. Healy may not be long for this eligibility and the batting average will slink back given his approach. McMahon also may find himself squeezed to the cold corner (he split his time evenly between first and third last season), but he spent the entire year as a 21-year-old in Double-A. Give him some more time. Solarte and Prado are the Steady Eddies of the group, as both should hit for solid average with a touch of power in a pretty poor lineup—yet they each bring enough to the table to roster in almost all sized leagues. Flores, on the surface, may have looked like he was heading for a breakout prior to injury, but he still only registered a .642 OPS against right-handed pitching. To say his .340/.383/.710 line with 11 homers in just 100 at bats against southpaws carried the day is quite the understatement.
34) Pablo Sandoval, Boston Red Sox
35) Travis Shaw, Milwaukee Brewers
36) Matt Duffy, Tampa Bay Rays
37) Jhonny Peralta, St Louis Cardinals
39) Matt Chapman, Oakland Athletics
40) Joshua Lowe, Tampa Bay Rays
Here is where you see the continued depth at the position. Sandoval is getting himself in great shape and may not be washed up. How he’s still only 30 years old is incredible. Shaw and Duffy will both look to flourish in relatively new environments after not being needed on the contenders they recently played for. Chapman’s got some pop, but that’s about it. Lowe has some upside with both the average and power, but is forever away. And don’t sleep on Valbuena in Los Angeles. With an aging team, this positionally-flexible infielder could sneak his way into 500 at bats and 20 homers.
41) Hunter Dozier, Kansas City Royals
42) David Wright, New York Mets
43) Jeimer Candelario, Chicago Cubs
44) Edwin Rios, Los Angeles Dodgers
45) Trevor Plouffe, Oakland Athletics
48) Danny Valencia, Seattle Mariners
49) Yunel Escobar, Los Angeles Angels
50) Michael Chavis, Boston Red Sox
Nothing breaks my heart more than seeing Captain America in this tier. At this point, all you can hope for is productive stretches of a few weeks at a time from him between injuries, but Wright was such a great hitter that he still deserves to be rostered in almost all leagues. Dozier, Rios and Andujar took nice steps forward in the prospect landscape and they all find themselves in the upper minors waiting for a shot (Dozier is likely to get his first—though outfield seems like his best shot at breaking through). Reyes and Chavis have stalled a little bit, but still have enough upside to sneak in over some of the just missed names—for more on those, check Wilson’s awesome deep dive, also up today at BP. Candelario still can be an everyday starter with solid power, but it won’t be in Chicago, which puts a damper on his medium-term outlook. Then there’s Valencia, who came crashing down this list after starting out the season so well. There’s just only so high you can put the short side of a platoon that punches immobile designated hitters.