We can predict what a player will do. We can gauge where he'll be drafted. But what projection systems and ADP data can't account for is mood. Who are the players most on the hearts and minds of the people taking in all of this information?

It's why I like to conduct a survey a couple times during Draft Prep season, to get a sense of what the average Fantasy Baseball player is thinking and how firmly he's thinking it. It's also fun to compare to past responses to see how things change over time.

The focus this time is Dynasty leagues. My question is straight to the point: Which player do you want most at each position? That's eight positions in all. You'll note that I don't stipulate "at cost," so interpretations will vary.

Below are the top responses (via Facebook and the app formerly known as Twitter) for each position.



Top three last year: Adley Rutschman (60.4) , Will Smith (9.2), Alejandro Kirk (6.0)

Rutschman has been the leading vote-getter for three straight years now, with his lead increasing each time. Seeing as he was drafted first overall in 2019, it's a picture-perfect, all-too-rare example of fulfilled potential, made all the more impressive by the fact he's a catcher. Catcher is of course a brutal position with its own unique playing time considerations that can quickly derail a player on a clear upward trajectory. By way of example, look no further than last year's third-pace finisher, Alejandro Kirk.

Given how young Rutschman is, how proven he already is and how stable he appears to be, there isn't a strong case for anyone else as the top Dynasty choice, unless you're factoring in cost. That's probably the reasoning behind the few others mentioned here. You'll notice Will Smith, whose cost is on the high side, didn't receive a vote, and for the first time since I began conducting these surveys, J.T. Realmuto was completely shut out as well. Among the other selections, the biggest head-scratcher is Cal Raleigh, who also performed surprisingly well in last year's survey. Perhaps I'm oversampling Mariners fans.

Received two votes: Bo Naylor, CLE

My choice: Rutschman

First base


Top three last year: Vladimir Guerrero (70.1), Pete Alonso (12.4), Vinnie Pasquantino (7.7)

We have a changing of the guard at a position where it looked like one player might have a stranglehold for a decade. Guerrero's vote share has gone from 90.6 percent in 2022 to 70.1 percent last year to 18.1 percent this year. He nearly earned a Triple Crown as a 22-year-old, quickly fulfilling his potential as a one-time top prospect in baseball, but has underwhelmed the past two years, allowing the older Matt Olson to supplant him.

And that's probably right. Olson's power is top-tier, and his place in the Braves lineup assures him massive run and RBI totals that few players are capable of matching. Still, we're talking a five-year age gap, and to whatever degree Guerrero's numbers have fallen short, the underlying data still points to elite outcomes. He has more going for him than most 25-year-old do, let's just say, and judging by these results, a buy-low attempt seems in order.

What also stands out here is the fine showing for Triston Casas, who performed admirably as a rookie but really took off in the second half, slashing .317/.417/.617. You could make the case he's being undervalued in redraft leagues, but he's not sneaking up on anyone in Dynasty. Bryce Harper, it's worth noting, loses support for his 31 years of age and Freddie Freeman even more for his 34 years of age.

Received two votes: Kyle Manzardo, TB

My choice: Olson

Second base


Top three last year: Ozzie Albies (33.8), Jazz Chisholm (23.0), Andres Gimenez (10.8)

Albies has been a constant at the top of these rankings and still has a strong case as a 27-year-old with an unimpeachable track record and a dream lineup spot. But a new fighter has entered the arena in Mookie Betts, who is Hall of Fame-bound and yet still ostensibly in the prime of his career at 31. I don't necessarily blame anyone for responding with the younger Albies, especially since it makes more sense to use Betts in the outfield for as long as he's eligible there, but it doesn't seem like a particularly fair contest.

There is no third place, really, and you can see last year's second- and third-place finishers are nowhere to be found now. (Chisholm has since moved to the outfield, but as you'll see soon enough, he got no votes there.) To the degree anyone makes sense, though, Matt McLain does coming off an impressive rookie season. His skills don't exactly jump off the Statcast page, however, and he has some strikeout concerns that may come back to bite him in the long run.

Received two votes: Luis Arraez, MIA; Termarr Johnson, PIT; Matt Shaw, CHC

My choice: Betts

Third base


Top three last year: Jose Ramirez (31.9), Rafael Devers (22.9), Austin Riley (19.4)

With each passing year, Riley proves himself all the more, and now he finds himself atop the third base heap for the first time heading into his age-27 season. And if you're noticing a trend of Braves at or near the top of every position, well, first of all, there's more to come, and secondly, it's self-perpetuating. The main thing separating Riley from Devers at this point is that the former shares a lineup with other stud hitters, driving up his run and RBI numbers, and those other stud hitters benefit just the same. It makes them hard to compete with for Dynasty purposes, especially since they're all relatively young.

There are even younger choices, though, with Gunnar Henderson being the obvious standout as the reigning AL Rookie of the Year at age 22. Junior Caminero is a prospect trending toward stardom. Elly De La Cruz is still rough around the edges but has as much upside as anyone at the position (he got some votes at shortstop as well), and Royce Lewis is a former No. 1 pick who began to surge late last year. They're all premium Dynasty assets, though I'd be a little more cautious with Lewis due to injury risk.

It's surprising how much support last year's top vote-getter, Ramirez, has lost in just a year's time, seeing as he's only 31 and still more or less doing what he's always done, but I think it speaks to the amount of young talent at this position right now.

Received two votes: Josh Jung, TEX; Michael Busch, CHC

My choice: Riley



Top three last year: Fernando Tatis (23.8), Trea Turner (18.1), Bobby Witt (16.3)

Given that shortstop is often seen as the position most stacked with young superstars, it's a credit to Witt that he's so clearly the No. 1. He nearly became the fourth ever 30-homer, 50-steal player at age 23 last year, and I fully expected him to dominate the responses. His dominance might also, though, be a reflection of how some of the old guard at the position is becoming ... well, old.

Or not exactly old, but old enough that they're no longer so attractive as Dynasty assets. Just look at the No. 2 finisher last year, Turner. He didn't get a single vote this time around. Now, he did perform below expectations last year, but a late surge has him positioned as a first-round pick again in redraft leagues. The diminished confidence for Dynasty is a little surprising to see. And check out the others to receive votes this year. Corey Seager is the only one who's in any way proven. Seems like Dynasty leaguers would prefer more of a project than one of the tried-and-trues at the position, at least presuming Witt is off the table.

It's a shame last year's top vote-getter, Tatis, isn't still eligible at the position. He wouldn't have beaten out Witt, but he might have made it close.

Received two votes: Bo Bichette, TOR; C.J. Abrams, WAS; Marcelo Mayer, BOS

My choice: Witt



Top three last year: Julio Rodriguez (47.4), Ronald Acuna (21.8), Juan Soto (15.4)

Honestly, good for Rodriguez for making it this close. Acuna is a Fantasy god, as he made abundantly clear with an all-timer performance last year, and is still only 26. Rodriguez is three years younger and is one of several players in the running for next-best player in Fantasy, but even so, every single respondent should have said Acuna here.

There isn't a whole lot more to add. Carroll is 23 and is also in the running for next-best player, like Rodriguez. I suppose the gap that's opened up between Acuna and Soto, who broke in the same year and were 1 and 1A here for the first few years, is kind of interesting. I have a feeling, though, Soto is in line for a career season now that he's leaving a venue ill-suited for his talents (Petco Park) for one well-suited for them (Yankee Stadium). I don't know how much support he could possibly take away from Acuna next year, but don't let his relatively poor showing here convince you he's anything less than a Dynasty monster.

Received two votes: Jackson Chourio, MIL; Wyatt Langford, TEX

My choice: Acuna

Starting pitcher


Top three last year: Corbin Burnes (27.5), Spencer Strider (15.2), Shane McClanahan (11.7)

If you've ever wondered what kind of Dynasty assets starting pitchers make for, just look at the top three finishers each of the past two years. Last year, it was Burnes, Strider and McClanahan, as you can see. The year before, it was Walker Buehler, Burnes and Jacob deGrom. That's five names in all, and you know how many of them got a single vote this year? Why, only the No. 1 here, Strider.

Is that meant as a warning for anyone invested in him? Well, not explicitly. He's my No. 1 choice, too, and I think the obvious one. It's more to say that every pitcher is a ticking time bomb of sorts, and any sizable investment in one risks blowing up in your face. I should note that just because Burnes didn't receive a vote this year doesn't mean his Dynasty value has cratered. He was a little less dominant last year and is closing in on his 30th birthday, so it makes sense that respondents would gravitate more toward up-and-comers. McClanahan, Buehler and deGrom, though, are all on the mend from Tommy John surgery, and the only one I can foresee regaining all of his value someday is McClanahan. (Buehler will get the first crack at it, though, this year.)

Received two votes: Tarik Skubal, DET; Cole Ragans, KC

My choice: Strider

Relief pitcher


Top three last year: Emmanuel Clase (42.4), Edwin Diaz (11.2), Andres Munoz (8.0)

Duran earning the top spot here was to me the biggest surprise of the whole exercise. He's already 26 and is coming off his first year closing. It was a great year -- and he's a great pitcher -- but there is no shortage of dominant closers right now, including several more proven and more dominant than Duran.

I wouldn't necessarily count Clase among them. His popularity among respondents is as durable as any reliever's, which is remarkable given that he doesn't miss bats like the typical closer. I think it's just that  he keeps piling up saves and is seen as secure in the role. More than him, though, I'm referring to Devin Williams, Josh Hader and Edwin Diaz -- all the top choices for redraft leagues, basically. They're 3-4 years older than Duran, but again, more proven and more dominant. And longevity isn't something you can count on at closer anyway. For that matter, why go with Duran over Camilo Doval, who's the same age and, again, more proven? Why him over Jordan Romano and David Bednar? To be clear, I don't think the gap is that big between any of these relievers (except for maybe Williams, Hader and Diaz), but if the enthusiasm gap is that big, maybe try shopping Duran.

Last point ... Orion Kerkering ... what are we doing here? I suppose some respondents might have meant it as a cost-saving move, preferring to speculate on saves rather than buy them, but it only makes sense if the cost is teeny tiny. Trying to identify closers ahead of time is an often fruitless endeavor.

Received two votes: Camilo Doval, SF

My choice: Williams