Pitchers and catchers have reported, and the rest of the rosters are beginning to make their journey to Grapefruit and Cactus locales in order to start the long and arduous quest to October baseball glory. Every season, a large group of these players will find the first item on their agenda is to introduce themselves to a whole new bunch of teammates.
Yes, the annual player merry-go-round is in full swing. This year, a total of 156 free agents hit the market in search of a potential new employer. For every Chris Davis and Yoenis Cespedes who opted to re-sign with their current team, there are just as many -- if not more -- players like Johnny Cueto and Jason Heyward who decided to take their services elsewhere, leaving hometown fans sporting jerseys that bear their names in the lurch.
Throw in player movement as a result of trades, and some major league rosters look like they've been picked out of a hat. San Diego Padres fans, you know what we're talking about.
The revolving door nature of offseason player movement is a huge reason why more fantasy baseball players have started to turn to dynasty league formats. Dynasty leagues are more than just keeper leagues, where each owner may get to retain a handful of players each season. They can truly give you a chance to root for a player for as long as your heart desires.
Once a guy is on your roster, he can stay there until he retires.
Did you take a chance with a late-round flier on David Ortiz in 1997? Congratulations. You've enjoyed 19 seasons and 503 career home runs as a result. Of course, picks can just as easily backfire on you. Remember Jason Dickson, anyone? Anyone?
Of course, when you start a dynasty league from scratch, you have to be of two minds. Sure, you want to create a team full of hot prospects and young players with tons of upside who may become the building blocks of a successful team for years to come, but you also have to draft enough established players who can help you today.
It's all well and good to be eyeballing a guy like Lucas Giolito of the Washington Nationals, but if he ends up taking another two seasons to make the rotation, you can't be selecting him too early on in the proceedings while leaving scores of potential 12-game winners out there for your fellow owners to snatch up.
To that end, I've put together my "perfect" first round of a 12-team, start-from-scratch dynasty league for the upcoming season. First and foremost, my rankings take into account projected 2016 contributions. I've then adjusted each player's value proportionally by a factor (positive or negative) related to his current age, as compared to the rest of the player pool at his position, in order to get the perfect balance between "playing for today" and "looking to the future."
The top 12 for dynasty leagues
Here's a rundown of why players were ranked where they were ranked:
No. 1 Mike Trout, No. 2 Bryce Harper: Quite frankly, you'd be more than justified in calling Mike Trout and Bryce Harper co-No. 1 selections, as there's not a ton of difference in value between the two players. In order to tip the scales, I suppose one could argue that there's no reason why Trout couldn't steal 20 bases with a slightly stronger success rate, or that Harper's history of getting hurt makes him slightly more of a risk. In fact, I guess I just did make that argument.
No. 3 Clayton Kershaw: Kershaw has had five consecutive years of top-3 finishes in Cy Young voting. No, you don't get any of that past success if you're starting your league today, but he's still far and away the surest thing on the mound for 2016. In general, because Tommy John surgeries have seemingly become more commonplace than complete games, you don't want to worry about your rotation too early in dynasty draft proceedings. In this case, you'll be forgiven if you want to make Kershaw your paramour.
No. 4 Manny Machado: Machado played in all 162 games last season, and should be considered a 30-home run lock going forward. However, the most impressive stat for Machado is how he's improved his K/BB rate from 3.9 in 2013 to just 1.6 last season. Machado doesn't swing and miss too often, and you're not likely to miss taking a swing at him at No. 4.
No. 5 Paul Goldschmidt: Goldschmidt takes a bit of a hit in value due to being so close to the average "turning point" of 28.9 years old for first basemen, which checks in as the oldest position in the major leagues. That said, you're not likely to find too many players with a legitimate shot for 100 each of runs, RBI and walks in 2016 -- and fewer still who may throw in a batting average over .300 for good measure.
No. 6 Carlos Correa: If first base is where teams look to stash aging veterans, shortstop is at the other end of the chronological spectrum, clocking in as the youngest position on the field, with an average age of 26.8 years. The 2015 AL Rookie of the Year is already projected to be the top SS for 2016, and he can play another five seasons before he reaches that youthful midpoint. If Correa is in the first-round conversation in a one-and-done league, he's a no-brainer in leagues where you can lock him up for as long as you want.
No. 7 Giancarlo Stanton, No. 8 Mookie Betts: With just a slight uptick in his HR/FB rate for 2016, Betts could potentially give you a 20-homer, 30-steal season and a .300 average. That would likely end up as a top-20 fantasy season overall, and the potential for an even greater power surge as he gets older says the sky could be the limit for Betts. Stanton is already atop that lofty perch, and could end up north of 50 home runs if he can avoid getting hurt. However, that power comes as a result of a ton of fly balls and the fourth-worst strikeout rate (28.3 percent) of any active player with at least 2,500 career plate appearances.
No. 9 Nolan Arenado: Arenado has a very team-friendly contract situation, which bodes well for the short term. However, the reality of the Coors Field boost in his home-road splits can't be ignored -- most notably his .682 slugging percentage versus LHP in Denver as compared with just .321 against lefties everywhere else. The potential for Colorado to use Arenado as a trade chip down the line certainly exists, and as such, you have to factor the downside of a change of scenery into rankings for the long haul.
No. 10 Anthony Rizzo, No. 11 Kris Bryant: In terms of "Bryzzo," the Chicago teammates and friends are inseparable in real life, so why should our dynasty ranks be any different? When it comes down to Rizzo and Bryant, we're certainly splitting hairs. Bryant's free-swinging ways (16.5 percent swinging strikes, fourth-worst among qualified hitters in 2015) means there's a lot more variance in his potential outcomes for 2016 than there is with Rizzo, who has improved in that statistic every year of his career. In the end, it may simply come down to the fact that if you pass on Rizzo, the likelihood that Bryant will still be there when it gets back to you is greater (Josh Donaldson is still on the board, after all) than if you tried to work it the other way around.
No. 12 Andrew McCutchen: Rounding out our first round is McCutchen. I love Cutch. He's put together four consecutive seasons of finishing in the top 5 of MVP voting, and if his team finds itself in the playoff hunt in 2016, he'll be right there again. But it can't be ignored that his batting average has dropped each season since 2012, and he may well never sniff 30 home runs or 20 steals again. Look, I'm old enough that at the first game I remember going to in person, Lou Piniella was in the dugout. Not as the manager mind you -- he played. So, I have no right calling McCutchen over the hill. But in baseball terms? Truth be told, the summit of his career has probably already been reached.