By Fred Zinkie
Special to Yahoo Sports
While a team full of safe, boring picks could potentially lead to a title, fantasy baseball is supposed to be fun. And sometimes that fun includes grabbing an early-round pick who could make or break a season.
The following 10 players are all top-100 picks with a sky-high ceiling — and an ultra-low floor to match.
Ronald Acuna, OF, Braves
We have been here before, where a player with less than a full year of Major League experience jumps all the way into the first-round picture. Such is the case with Acuna, who is currently a top-10 pick after hitting .293 with 26 homers and 16 steals in 111 games during his rookie year. His ceiling is tantalizing — something in the neighborhood of 35 round-trippers, 25 swipes and a .300 average. But the youngster’s brief track record leaves open the possibility that Major League hurlers could still find some holes in his plate skills.
Francisco Lindor, SS, Indians
Before being sidelined for an expected 7-9 weeks with a calf injury, Lindor seemed like an ultra-safe first rounder who had missed a total of 11 games in the previous three years. But the long-term spring injury now makes the shortstop a risky option in the initial two rounds. Lindor could miss more time than expected, his injury could limit his base-running aggressiveness, or he could suffer at the dish after deviating from his normal spring regimen. But if everything breaks right, the 25 year old could miss minimal time and approach his gaudy numbers (38 homers, 25 steals, 129 runs scored) from a year ago.
Clayton Kershaw, SP, Dodgers
Here’s the thing: A healthy Kershaw still might be the best pitcher in baseball. But to what degree will he be healthy this year? Having thrown 175 or fewer innings in each of the past three seasons made the southpaw a major injury risk even before he arrived at Spring Training and quickly shut things down. Some owners will see his career ratios (2.39 ERA, 1.01 WHIP) and make him their ace, while others will see his injury history and keep their distance.
Walker Buehler, SP, Dodgers
Buehler is the pitching version of Acuna, as he is being drafted as a mixed-league ace despite having logged less than a full season in the bigs. But owners can certainly dream on this talented 24 year old who posted eye-popping ratios last year (2.62 ERA, 0.96 WHIP) and has the potential to collect 15-20 wins and 200-220 whiffs across 32 starts.
Noah Syndergaard, SP, Mets
Syndergaard is basically a younger version of Kershaw, in terms of having game-changing potential that is clouded by a lengthy injury history. Still, there is clearly talent oozing out of Thor (career 2.93 ERA, 9.9 K/9 rate) and manager Mickey Calloway — who used to be the pitching coach for a terrific rotation in Cleveland — had a positive impact on Jacob deGrom and Zack Wheeler in his first season with the Mets.
Carlos Correa, SS, Astros
Correa is coming off an injury-riddled season, but he was dynamite as a 22 year old in 2017 (24 homers, 84 RBIs, .315 average in 109 games). Risky owners can grab the 24 year old at his decreased cost (ADP 37) and hope that he hits .300 with more than 30 homers and 100 RBIs by moving past the back woes that plagued him a year ago. But back injuries sometimes linger through multiple seasons (just ask Kershaw).
Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 3B, Blue Jays
After slashing .381/.437/.636 (stop and breathe in those numbers!) across four Minor League levels as a 19-year-old, Guerrero is clearly the real deal. The youngster has an outstanding batting eye and plate coverage, and his sizeable frame likely points to a jump in power production in the near future. In fact, no one should be surprised if Guerrero hits .300 with 25 homers and 90 RBIs as a rookie this year. The problem with drafting the phenom in the initial rounds is that no one knows his timetable. The Blue Jays could bring him up in mid-April or choose to leave him in Triple-A Buffalo for an extended period of time.
Adalberto Mondesi, SS, Royals
Owners who are looking for a boom-or-bust option might double Mondesi’s surprising numbers from 2018 (14 homers, 32 steals in 75 games) and project 28 homers and 64 swipes in 150 contests. And those optimistic expectations can be supported by the speedster having produced 18 long balls and 31 steals across 114 games in Triple-A during 2017-18. But with poor contact skills, an abysmal batting eye (career 0.14 BB:K ratio) and just 147 games of Major League experience, Mondesi is among the riskiest early-round picks.
Jack Flaherty, SP, Cardinals
I have to admit that I am really excited about Flaherty. The youngster lit it up last year (3.34 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 10.8 K/9 rate), and his slider is absolutely filthy. But there are still reasons for doubt, as his arsenal is mostly limited to two pitches and his control skills do not resemble those of an ace (career 3.6 BB/9 rate). A 3.00 ERA and 230 whiffs would not be surprising, but neither would a 4.00 ERA and plenty of time on shallow-league benches.
Jonathan Villar, 2B, Orioles
Can any player match Villar’s roller-coaster ride in recent seasons? The speedster was lights-out in 2016 (19 homers, 62 steals, 92 runs scored) before being one of ‘17’s biggest busts. He proceeded to open ’18 in invisible fashion before tallying eight long balls and 21 swipes during 54 games as a member of the Orioles. As a full-time player on a rebuilding team, Villar could lead the Majors in steals this year. He could also strike out so often (career 27.3 percent whiff rate) that he is glued to Baltimore’s bench by June.