First, let's look at who actually is a first-round pick, according to Yahoo:
Yahoo's Top Twelve Players, According to O-Rank
- Mike Trout, OF, Angels
- Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pirates
- Clayton Kershaw, SP, Dodgers
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B/3B, Tigers
- Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Diamondbacks
- Giancarlo Stanton, OF, Marlins
- Carlos Gomez, OF, Brewers
- Jose Abreu, 1B, White Sox
- Adam Jones, OF, Orioles
- Jose Bautista, 1B/OF, Blue Jays
- Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Cubs
- Edwin Encarnacion, 1B, Blue Jays
1. Mike Trout, OF, Angels
2. Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pirates
3. Clayton Kershaw, SP, Dodgers
Barring massive injury, I think these guys are safe bets to stick around at least a few years. Transcendent talents.
4. Miguel Cabrera, 1B/3B, Tigers
Cabrera is interesting, because I really think he's going to do well this year, but it's very likely that he loses 3B going into next year. Probably still a first-round pick, though. He's the best hitter the league has seen since Manny Ramirez.
5. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Diamondbacks
6. Giancarlo Stanton, OF, Marlins
7. Carlos Gomez, OF, Brewers
8. Jose Abreu, 1B, White Sox
I expect all four of these guys to remain in the first or early second rounds, depending on their relative performances and health. Goldschmidt, Stanton, and Abreu are all high end power talent, and even though people still mistrust Gomez, he's been a power-speed guy for years now. It's time to buy in.
9. Adam Jones, OF, Orioles
Jones is a tough nut to crack. In a full season, he's almost a lock for .280-90-30-90. His speed is fading, and his plate discipline is zero (he walked just 19 times last year), but consistent power, average, and run production will always have value. I think he'll drop to the second round next year, but no farther than around 18th.
10. Jose Bautista, 1B/OF, Blue Jays
I hate thinking of Jose Bautista as "old" since he's two-and-a-half months younger than me, but the reality is that 34 is pretty old in baseball (maybe this is why it always seems to be sports fans who have midlife crises). If he stays healthy, he's probably got another year or two of top tier production, but his batting average dips in 2012 and 2013 give me pause.
11. Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Cubs
I don't trust Rizzo, but he's got fair pedigree. I expect him to regress a little, but still be in the ballpark of .270 and 30 HR, and at his age, that'll keep people buying. I predict other people will have him in the first round again next year, and I predict I still won't.
12. Edwin Encarnacion, 1B, Blue Jays
Encarnacion is like his teammate Bautista in a lot of ways. They both had slow starts to their careers, and they both appear to be top-level mashers with modest batting averages. I just don't trust Encarnacion. He has the smell of Adam Dunn to me, and that means while I expect he'll still hit with power, his dropoff in other categories will be precipitous. With a history of back ailments, I think there's a reasonable chance that Edwin could slip again this year, down to a .240-.260 hitting 1B with very good pop. On your draft boards, that's somewhere between David Ortiz (48) and Chris Carter (96).
My bets for dropping out of Yahoo's top round in 2016 are #9 Adam Jones, #10 Jose Bautista, and #12 Edwin Encarnacion. The rest I expect to stick around, again, barring massive injury.
Now for the more fun part: who's taking their spots? Since I have three guys dropping from the first round, I'm going to give you three guys to take their places. And to maximize the fun(/crazy) aspect, I'll only pick people outside of the top 25.
Yu Darvish, SP, Rangers (#36)
It's extremely difficult for a starting pitcher to get into the first round of a fantasy draft. The fact that Kershaw has been securely in the first round for multiple years is pretty remarkable. I think Darvish has that kind of next-level talent. His strikeout rate is fantastic, a must-have for a first round pitcher. While last season was cut short for him because of elbow inflammation, I think he's closer to his 2013 performance at his core. That's 2.83/1.07/.194 batting-average-against, for those of you unwilling to Google the man.
Joey Votto, 1B, Reds (#59)
I've never been totally wild about Joey Votto. I'm still not all the way on board with drafting guys who don't really have any speed upside; I always seem to have trouble finding steals. But in today's fantasy baseball world, batting average and run production puts you near the top of the draft. Votto has never hit lower than .297 in any season in which he played at least 100 games, and he still hits in Cincinnati, one of the better hitting ballparks out there. He may suffer from "broken heart syndrome," where people discount him because they got burned drafting him the past couple years, but I think a bounce-back is very possible, and that would put him right in the mix for the first round.
Not crazy enough for you? Alright, well how about...
Manny Machado, 3B, Orioles (#123)
If I'm being honest, I wouldn't bet much money on Machado actually breaking into the top 12 of Yahoo's O-Rank next season. That said, I think there's a ton of room for improvement here, and, just as importantly, I think the fantasy community is ready to believe in him. Machado was a top-tier prospect who's acquitted himself well in the major leagues. He's still just 22, which means there's plenty of time for him to evolve into the type of player he was projected to be. He's never been much of a speedster, but with a reasonable level of improvement, I don't think it's out of the question to see him take a 2006-Matt-Holliday-sized leap forward. A line of .310/100/30/100 is feasible, and at third base, that's first round magic.
So there you have it, my take on the first round this year and next. Stay tuned this season to see how right I was (or on the off chance I was slightly wrong, to harass me for it).