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At this time of year, the focus in dynasty leagues is squarely on two things: the yearly draft and polishing off those last few keeper spots heading into the new season. Usually, these two are very intertwined, especially when it comes to off-season trading—and knowing both the depth and pressure points of the draft class can help you figure out the best course of action for your team. After all, not all draft picks or classes are created equally.

It’s easy to look back at last year’s class—specifically, last year’s list—and see that this is a great year to have multiple draft picks. We’ve known for quite a while that the 2014 class was extremely deep, but when you look at the last five or so names from last year’s list, it’s not exaggeration to say that those players (at this time last year) might have struggled to fit into a top-75 now. In fact, while three members of the J2 class from 2013 made that list, no member’s of last year’s made this one. Some of that may have been due to the talent of Rafael Devers, Eloy Jimenez, and Gleyber Torres, but then again, it’s not like Gilbert Lara, Adrian Rondon, and Juan De Leon are chumps either.

The problem comes at the top of the draft. We’ve been spoiled recently with the combination of draftees with elite potential and high profile international signings. Here is what the top of my draft board has looked like the last four years:

2014

2013

2012

2011

Kris Bryant

Carlos Correa

Yu Darvish

Bryce Harper

Jose Abreu

Byron Buxton

Anthony Rendon

Manny Machado

Masahiro Tanaka

Mike Zunino

Gerrit Cole

Jameson Taillon

Clint Frazier

Jorge Soler

Trevor Bauer

Nick Castellanos

Jonathan Gray

Addison Russell

Dylan Bundy

Chris Sale

Mark Appel

Max Fried

Yoenis Cespedes

Nolan Arenado

As you can see from the chart above, not only is the top spot significantly less valuable in 2015 drafts, but it’s weaker across the board in the first half of the first round. If you were drafting the 2013 and 2014 classes together (with values locked at time of each draft), you might be hard-pressed to squeeze anyone into the top six from the current crop.

And while the issues with the no. 1 slot may be talent-based, the rest of it isn’t. There is a lot of upside scattered throughout these rankings, but there is more risk than usual—and mitigating circumstances that make the high end of the board look weaker. Things could have been slightly different had Jeff Hoffman not had Tommy John, or if Kenta Maeda had been posted and Yoan Moncada had signed (though this could still happen—and he’d rank in the top tier if he were eligible).

And 500 words is just about enough of an introduction here, so let’s move things along. Here are the top 50 players available in 2015 dynasty league first-year player drafts:

1) Yasmany Tomas, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks
2) Carlos Rodon, LHP, Chicago White Sox
3) Rusney Castillo, OF, Boston Red Sox
4) Kyle Schwarber, C/OF, Chicago Cubs

So this is the top tier we get this year. If these four break right, we’re looking at a 30-plus home run threat in the desert, a perpetual borderline SP1 candidate, a five-category threat that calls Fenway home, and a catcher who can hit for average and eclipse 25 homers (something that’s only been done five times in the last five seasons). Of course, we know that won’t all happen. The trouble is, when you’re deciding at the top of the draft this year, all four of these players are reasonably close to each other in value.

The incredible thing here is that I’ve spent so much time and effort over the past few years trying to get across the BPA (best player available) mentality in dynasty drafts. You’ve seen me write about it, and you’ve heard us talk about it on TINO. Yet this year, if you’re picking in the top three (fourth doesn’t matter, you’ll take who comes to you), the top tier is so densely packed, your team composition actually matters. If you’re built to win right now and need an outfielder, Castillo might be your guy. If pitchers are more valuable in your league and you’re short an arm or two, Rodon might be your pick. Just don’t get too used to me saying that it’s okay not to go with the best player available.

There’s no great pick at the top of the draft this year, and there’s no inherently bad pick at the top of the draft this year. Whether you find comfort in that, largely depends on your individual valuations and what your draft slot is. Tomas might not make enough contact to be a difference-maker in fantasy. Rodon could end up just being the guy from his junior season at NC State. Castillo could be a center fielder better known for his defense than offense. Schwarber could be a generic almost power hitting outfielder. Such is life. Choose wisely or trade back.

5) Jeff Hoffman, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays
6) Aaron Nola, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies
7) Alex Jackson, OF, Seattle Mariners

Both Hoffman and Jackson have the talent to be in the first tier, but not only does each carry his own risk, they both have ended up in pretty unfavorable future home park situations. In fact, it would not be surprising if either player ended up as the best dynasty-league asset from this draft class. Of course, if you’re not much of a risk taker, Nola will probably top out as a good SP3, but he could be in the majors this year and pretty close to peak value by next.

8) Brandon Finnegan, LHP, Kansas City Royals
9) Trea Turner, SS, San Diego Padres
10) Tyler Kolek, RHP, Miami Marlins
11) Grant Holmes, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
12) Bradley Zimmer, OF, Cleveland Indians
13) Michael Conforto, OF, New York Mets

Here’s where things start to get interesting. There’s a slight line of demarcation at this point between the players who are surer bets and the ones who have more upside, with a small amount of crossover. Finnegan has already pitched in the big leagues, and though a rotation future is far from guaranteed, he’s passed the first test. Turner, Zimmer, and Conforto should all be relatively fast movers in their systems—and they all may get to the majors as soon as 2016. For better or worse, Turner will lose two months of developmental time due to being a PTBNL in the Wil Myers trade. Where things get slightly divergent is with Kolek and Holmes, but for different reasons. Kolek has plenty of upside, and despite his ETA, the Marlins have a strong track record of developing power pitchers. Holmes is very polished and should be one of the first prep pitchers to reach the majors from this class.

14) Touki Toussaint, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
15) Forrest Wall, 2B, Colorado Rockies
16) Erick Fedde, RHP, Washington Nationals
17) Nick Gordon, SS, Minnesota Twins
18) Derek Fisher, OF, Houston Astros

And if you’re less into safety, this is the tier that probably looks more attractive. From the mound, Toussaint may have the best fastball/breaking ball combination in this entire draft class, but he’s got a lot of work to do before he can start to make good on his TORP. Fedde is the second player on this list recovering from Tommy John, and while his upside doesn’t match Hoffman’s, he would be on the edge of the top-10 if fully healthy. Wall has the whole sexy Coors angle going for him, and he’s a natural hitter with speed. Gordon will get inflated slightly because of his draft spot, but it’s not a true defense-first profile. Fisher remains one of my favorite targets, as a toolsy college guy who may not put it together but could approach five-category fantasy star territory if he does.

19) Kyle Freeland, LHP, Colorado Rockies

Where Freeland falls in drafts is going to be one of the more fascinating things to track this offseason. On one hand, he’s a top-10 pick who put up ridiculous stats in his junior season, including K:BB rates that would make your mother blush. On the other hand, eww Colorado. Let’s be honest, if Freeland had been drafted by the Mariners or the Mets, he would be right up near Nola and Finnegan, but the history of how pitchers fare in Coors can’t be ignored.

20) Michael Chavis, 2B/3B, Boston Red Sox
21) Derek Hill, OF, Detroit Tigers
22) Max Pentecost, C, Toronto Blue Jays
23) Luis Ortiz, RHP, Texas Rangers
24) Tyler Beede, RHP, San Francisco Giants
25) Jack Flaherty, RHP, St Louis Cardinals

To show how deep this draft class is in this segment, all six of these players were darkhorse candidates for the Dynasty 101. Chavis has one of the most natural hit tools of the draft class, but his position is unknown and he’s got a pretty long road ahead of him. Hill’s road may be even longer, but he could be a five-category contributor, in the mold of Austin Jackson—though his defense will make him more valuable in real life than fantasy. Pentecost doesn’t have huge upside, but should be a mixed-league starter for a while as an all-around contributor. Ortiz has as much talent as any pitcher in this draft class outside the top five of this list, with the possible exception of Toussaint. Beede had a mostly strong college resume and landed with a good organization for his profile, but he has his work cut out for him if he wants to remain a starter. Flaherty flew under the radar because of perceived unsignability, but he is a first-round talent with athleticism, four offerings, and advanced feel for a prep arm.

26) Roberto Baldoquin, 2B/3B, Los Angeles Angels

Probably the biggest unknown in dynasty drafts this year, Baldoquin is a 20-year-old Cuban import who doesn’t have the Serie Nacional experience to have name recognition among dynasty leaguers or the big-time tools of Yoan Moncada. He doesn’t project to have a ton of power or speed, but could be ready in a year or two and provide some value everywhere.

27) A.J. Reed, 1B, Houston Astros
28) Bobby Bradley, 1B, Cleveland Indians

Two big guys. Two potentially big bats. Both Reed and Bradley had impressive debuts in 2014 and carry plenty of potential with the stick. The fact that they are both limited to first base in the long run will keep them off or down prospect lists, but not here.

29) Alex Blandino, 2B/3B, Cincinnati Reds
30) Mitch Keller, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
31) Sean Newcomb, LHP, Los Angeles Angels
32) Braxton Davidson, 1B/OF, Atlanta Braves
33) Monte Harrison, OF, Milwaukee Brewers
34) Brent Honeywell, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays

The depth continues, as this tier includes a nice collection of upside with some proximity sprinked in. Blandino doesn’t have much to offer in terms of speed, and his power is middling at best, but he should move quickly and can offer sneaky value in non-shallow mixed leagues. Keller and Honeywell aren’t well known, especially given their draft position, but they are prep pitchers with exciting futures despite not carrying ace upside. Davidson was one of my favorite prep bats coming into the 2014 draft, and none of that has changed in the face of a disappointing pro debut.

35) Nick Burdi, RHP, Minnesota Twins

The velocity out of Burdi’s right arm is special, and he should be ready very quickly. Reliever investments in a dynasty context are still not a recommended strategy, but if you’re not going to listen to that advice and take one anyway, it should be him.

36) Michael Gettys, OF, San Diego Padres
37) Cole Tucker, SS/3B, Pittsburgh Pirates
38) Carson Sands, LHP, Chicago Cubs
39) Michael Kopech, RHP, Boston Red Sox
40) Nick Howard, RHP, Cincinnati Reds
41) Spencer Adams, RHP, Chicago White Sox

The parade of upside continues as all six of the names above have the potential to be strong fantasy contributors if they can overcome their weaknesses and ETAs. Gettys could be a fantasy star if he has just a fringy hit tool. Tucker was widely considered an overdraft by the Pirates, but has the tools to be a five-category contributor—just likely not at shortstop. Sands, Kopech, and Adams are another three in a long line of prep pitchers to watch from this draft class, and Howard has similar upside but his conversion from relief to starting pitcher will give him more risk and lead time than some of his fellow college first-rounders.

42) Alex Verdugo, OF Los Angeles Dodgers
43) Ti’Quan Forbes, SS/3B, Texas Rangers
44) Foster Griffin, LHP, Kansas City Royals
45) Sam Travis, 1B, Boston Red Sox
46) Kodi Medeiros, LHP, Milwaukee Brewers
47) Jacob Gatewood, SS, Milwaukee Brewers
48) Jakson Reetz, C, Washington Nationals
49) Sean Reid-Foley, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays
50) Luke Weaver, RHP, St Louis Cardinals

There are some famous pre-draft names in this group, including the two back-to-back members of the Brewers (though they both check in behind their third pick, Monte Harrison). Medeiros is very likely a reliever, but there’s still a glimmer of hope that he could be a starter with high-strikeout potential. Prep catchers are the slowest of burns, but Reetz has the chops to stick and plenty in the bat. Travis and Weaver are likely to be quick movers, but are also unlikely to ever be fantasy stars.

Honorable Mention:

Look, I usually stop with the comments after the top 50 is over, but all 10 of these players would have made the list in almost any other year, so we’ll continue. There are some interesting first-round bats (but not too interesting) in Chapman and Gillaspie—though they drop off the list because of a lack of upside. The two biggest J2 signings for fantasy purposes finally show up here in Lara and Rondon—Lara is the bigger bat, but Rondon is relatively advanced and should stick at shortstop. Also, I have mentioned Jake Stinnett again, so that I don’t get punched in the neck by Mike Ferrin. He may seem harmless, but the man has a serious mean streak.

Thank you for reading

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mattseward
1/06
Brett, great list, I found last year's list really helpful in my draft prep so I'm very glad it's been brought back this year. I know Yoan Moncada, Hector Olivera and Andy Ibanez haven't signed yet but can you tell us whereabouts you would rank them if you could?
bretsayre
1/06
Thanks! For Moancada, he belongs in the first tier, but how high you want to take him is likely dependent on your risk aversion. Personally, I'd slot him third, but you could make a perfectly rational argument for first or fifth. Ibanez would be lower down just because he doesn't carry the same fantasy upside, and he's slot in the 13-14 range given his uncertainty. Then Olivera is a very different case, as he'd be valuable now but is pushing 30. He'd go right in the same range as Ibanez though, since I think he'll sign soon and return fantasy value in the near term.
Silverback38
1/06
I also would like a prospectus on Yoan Moncada as I can draft him in my league. I have the number 2 pick and don't really like the options of this year
mdotmorris22
1/07
I also pick 2nd and I am pumped at that spot (even more if Moncada signs in time for my draft. Tomas and Rodon are great one/two punch reguardless.
captnamerca
1/06
Yes! Just in time for my draft! Thanks, Bret.
lewist
1/06
Great analysis, thank you for the contrarian reasoning on Nick Gordon. I am mildly surprised at the number of pitchers for fantasy dynasty in the top 25, instead of potential 5 tool bats falling outside (Monte Harrison and Alex Verdugo in particular, but even the high upside power of AJ reed/Bobby Bradley too) Is this simply because the pitchers have the pedigree/proximity to have average+ major league impact, or am I undervaluing this year's pitchers class relative to the fantasy player field overall? Average+ pitching is so deep overall in the majors..
bretsayre
1/06
I'd argue that Harrison and Verdugo aren't five-category bats and they're both very far away from reaching their potential. Plus, you have to go with where the value is in each draft, and this particular draft is a little arm-heavy in that area.
Dano2387
1/06
In my NL only dynasty league i have the 1st pick this year. Do i take tomas or addison russell who was sent over from AL last year?
bretsayre
1/06
Take Russell. He good.
kalimantan
1/06
Clint Frazier still isn't on ESPN. If he turns up this year, where would he rank?
mmg3327
1/06
Adding to this: ESPN also doesn't (yet) have Julio Urias, Tyler Glasnow, Hunter Harvey, Hunter Renfroe, Aaron Judge, Kohl Stewart, or D.J. Peterson in its player database. Assuming ESPN adds them for this year, where would they - and Frazier - rank in this list?
bretsayre
1/06
This is a question that will be answered by the 101 next month. Also, playing in leagues where the player pool is dictated by who just happens to be added is no way to live.
Muboshgu
1/06
^ This. My league operates a separate site outside of ESPN so we can own any minor leaguer.
kalimantan
1/07
Yeah, but they're nice leagues with nice people :)
MPC203
2/04
The guys listed above, along with just about everyone in Bret's top-50 signees, should be in the ESPN game this coming season.
heterodude
1/06
Reynaldo Lopez and Raisel Iglesias still aren't spoken for in my Dynasty league. Where would they slot into this list?
bretsayre
1/06
Iglesias was eligible for the list and did not make it. He's a reliever, and I'm just not particularly excited about his fantasy future, especially in the context of a deep class of amateur talent hitting the ranks. Lopez would likely sit right around where Finnegan is.
tonynelson19
1/06
Speaking of Devers, Jimenez, and Torres, where would they fall in this list?
bretsayre
1/06
They were all on last year's list, and I'd still rank them Devers, Jimenez, Torres.
tonynelson19
1/06
Sorry, I was meaning in which tiers would they be ranked in this class? Still somewhere in the 30s?
bretsayre
1/08
Devers is going to make the Dynasty 101, so he'd be much higher--in the Finnegan tier. Other guys would be in the 30s.
Muboshgu
1/06
This is the article we dynasty hounds were all waiting for! Is this formatted for a 5x5 league? If so, what changes would you make for points leagues?
bretsayre
1/06
Correct. In points leagues, I'd slightly bump up more natural hitters like Chavis, Pentecost and Zimmer, while dropping down speed-based guys like Turner, Harrison and Hill. But don't move them around too much since it's very hard to predict league differential this early.
crperry13
1/06
J.D. Davis? The track record for college bats is good, comparatively, and the Astros seem to think he'll stick at 3B.
bretsayre
1/06
He probably would have made a top-75, but while the power is nice, he's unlikely to stick at third and is going to have to prove that he can use the power as he moves up to a more age-appropriate level.
ctt8410
1/06
Jung-Ho Kang?
TeamPineTar
1/06
Kudos for this time-consuming and careful work, Bret. Maybe a few Monte Harrison watchers will be spared from this: Harrison and Bubba Starling are the best two non-linemen I have seen play HS football in the KC area for the last 6-8 years. KC boys play that game well. What we do NOT do is play much baseball compared to the South. HS baseball practice and the first half of the season take place in miserable weather conditions: cold, strong winds, muddy fields. Decent conditions prevail over only a few weeks at the end of each season. Summer leagues and travel teams are few and not strong in any age group. At age 18, kids from around here simply have not played much baseball compared to kids elsewhere. I wish Harrison well, but his road will be LONG.
bretsayre
1/06
The combination of a long road ahead of him and diminished upside for fantasy leaves him outside the group here. He's an interesting name to store away in the back of your mind though.
BenC22
1/06
me?
username49
1/06
Here is a question for either Ben or Bret. If Schwarber had already been moved to LF and you knew thats where he would play in the majors, would that change your opinion of him? I am actually shying away from him because catchers have limited upside to me, but the reality is there is still a pretty good chance he never plays a major league game behind the plate? I think he would be my number 1 if I knew he wasn't catching. What says you guys?
bretsayre
1/06
I'd have him in the exact same place if I knew he would never play another game at catcher in either the majors or minors. Losing the eligibility would be unfortunate, but he'd get to the majors quicker and the offensive potential would be accentuated. I'm a huge believer in the bat, so while the dream is for him to play 150 games a year, while nabbing 30 of them at catcher for eligibility purposes, a full OF Schwarber is a big time fantasy prospect.
Muboshgu
1/06
Hodor?
DeathSpeculum
1/06
any feel for or thoughts on other j2 signees, dermis Garcia, lewin diaz or nelson gomez? also, a guy from last year who had a nice season and tools for days, Leonardo Molina; where would he rank, had he been eligible here?
bretsayre
1/07
Molina is a very exciting flier, and is a potential five-category stud. He'd be a borderline top-20 name on this list. Diaz has huge power and is a fun profile to gamble on. The others wouldn't register here yet.
prwillard2
1/06
Where would Mookie Betts land on this list if he was available this year? Somewhere in the top 4?
moehk21
1/06
Easily Top Three
dpotemkin
1/07
What about this Cuban kid, Jose Fernandez?
bretsayre
1/07
He's not really a kid as he'll be 27 in April. He also has a lack of fantasy upside, as while he can contribute in batting average, he doesn't offer much in the way of power or speed. We also have no idea when he's coming to MLB.
dpotemkin
1/07
Thank you, Bret. Yours is the most fantasy- relevant assessment I've read re: Fernandez. I appreciate the feedback.
Silverback38
1/07
What would be your realistic comp for Yasmani Tomas? Everyone talks about big power but a lacking hit tool. That is a huge risk for a top draft pick.
bretsayre
1/07
People are too concerned about the hit tool. Sure, it's not his strongest area, but there's no reason he can't do what Marcell Ozuna has been doing, but with more power.
Silverback38
1/08
I'm curious why you're not more inclined to rank Castillo ahead of Tomas. I know this is a Dynasty League ranking but at least Castillo has at least shown what he can do, in the majors and most recently the AFL. All Tomas has shown is BP and amateur video clips of great power; while at the same time giving the physical appearance of just competing with Craig in a sandwich-eating contest, the Cuban no less.
QuadCityBraves
1/07
i have a trade that i would love any and all feedback. i give up the 3rd overall choice, Taijaun Walker i receive number 16 pick, Daniel Norris and Gregory Polanco. 20 team dynasty league.
bretsayre
1/07
I would make that deal. The drop from 3 to 16 isn't as deep as in most years, and Polanco trumps Walker, so you're essentially being compensated Daniel Norris--which is fantastic compensation.
QuadCityBraves
1/07
thanks a lot man i really appreciate it.
mdotmorris22
1/07
Great work Bret, this is my favorite list that I look forward to each year.
bretsayre
1/08
Thanks! I really appreciate that.
mdotmorris22
1/07
What is your thoughts on Ozhaino Albies, he is unowned in both my leagues both 16 teams with 25 man minor league rosters. Where would rank on this list or does he?
bretsayre
1/08
Albies is a very interesting real-life prospect, but falls a bit more flat in a fantasy context. He's someone who should probably be owned in that size format, but he likely wouldn't make this list.
noone99
1/07
If your window is 2 years from now in 15 team 5x5 CBS dynasty and need a 3B/CI, do you do this deal Me sending Tapia, 26th pick Me receiving Maikel Franco, 67th pick Thanks for the list, this is HUGE for us every year
bretsayre
1/08
Nope, that's a downgrade in both the player and the pick.
larryfine
1/07
Gavin LaValley's name interests me greatly. Is there any chance you could go more in depth on him and his fantasy value? Thanks for this.
bretsayre
1/08
He's a big guy with a potentially big bat. He's also forever away and isn't likely a third baseman. It's a long road considering he's all bat, no eligibility, but hes a nice flier as a potential 25-plus HR hitter down the road.
larryfine
1/07
I am also curious about Michael Cederoth (even though he didnt make the list), mainly because the Twins are trying him out at starter. I know it would be a long haul, but is there a realistic chance he becomes a starter long term?
bretsayre
1/08
The short answer is that I don't think it works as a starter. And as a reliever he falls behind guys like Raicel Iglesias and Jacob Lindgren, both of whom didn't make the list either.
coopr1248
1/07
Would you rather have two picks in the 8-10 range or a top 4 pick? Or is it dependent on the state of your team?
bretsayre
1/08
I wouldn't. That 8-10 range is as weak comparatively as the 1-4 range. If you could get three picks in the first 20 or so, that I'd probably do, unless you're in love with one of the top guys.
coopr1248
1/09
How far off was Aaron Brown from the honorable mentions?
bretsayre
1/13
He was not in consideration. Brown has some interesting tools, but has a long way to go before he puts anything together.
Gravybill1
1/12
Are any of the following worth an early second round pick? An early third? Franchy Cordero, Francisco Mejia, Jose Martinez (ARZ), Lewis Thorpe. Thanks!
bretsayre
1/13
Mejia/Thorpe, yes for a third, assuming it's a 12-team league or greater. No on the other two.
Muboshgu
1/13
Any thoughts on Yoan Lopez? Where would he slot in? Now that he's (reportedly) signed, he'll be eligible in my draft.
MaineSkin
1/16
I have 1.01 in TDGX after a season of Belt, Profar, Puig 2H and no staff bc I traded early. Moncada at this point is my selection as long as he signs before draft day. Am I wrong to buy-in to "the best talent to come out of Cuba since Soler" and projects to have more speed?
ajbeisheim
1/16
Now that Kang has signed, where does he fall? Thanks for the great work Bret.
ChristianGregory
3/03
Would Yoan Lopez make this list?