Angels outfielder Mike Trout was picked first in virtually every 2015 fantasy draft. At the time, he seemed poised for a multi-year run as the consensus No. 1 overall selection.
But, as we've seen this season, perhaps that will not be the case.
The 24-year-old has certainly been a fine fantasy asset during this campaign, but he has shown some signs that put his 2016 top-pick status in peril. The former five-category contributor has successfully converted only four of 11 stolen-base attempts since the beginning of May. He also hit just .218 during August, with one homer over 101 at-bats. Also, because he is surrounded by a mediocre Halos lineup, Trout has not received the support required to build massive RBI and runs-scored totals.
Fantasy owners would not be foolish to leave Trout atop their preliminary 2016 draft lists, but the following five players might each have a case to be the top player taken off your board.
Paul Goldschmidt, first baseman (D-backs): Trout's strongest challenge will likely come from Goldschmidt, who has arguably been the top fantasy performer this season by virtue of hitting .324 with 27 homers and 21 steals over 591 plate appearances. On course for a third straight season with a .300 average and displaying outstanding power, the first baseman possesses unquestionably good plate skills. But it's his ability to compile steals from a position full of plodding players that really sets the supreme slugger apart. Although his 2015 swipes total is higher than most expected, Goldy entered the season with a pair of 15-steal campaigns on his ledger. Goldy can do it all.
Bryce Harper, outfielder (Nationals): Arguably the most touted prospect of his generation, Harper has turned potential into production by hitting .337 with 33 homers and 100 runs over 546 plate appearances in 2015. Like Trout, Harper is rarely using his notable wheels to compile steals. But Harper's patient approach has led to a lofty .469 on-base percentage. Fantasy owners may opt to view Harper as a slightly younger, slightly more talented version of Trout, which would lead to a tough decision on draft day.
Clayton Kershaw, starting pitcher (Dodgers): Because of the depth at starting pitcher, Kershaw may be dismissed as a non-option atop 2016 fantasy draft boards. But with a 1.92 ERA and a 0.89 WHIP since the outset of 2013, the Dodgers' southpaw -- relative to his active contemporaries -- is in the midst of an unrivaled stretch of greatness. Kershaw has taken his game to a higher level this season, with a strikeout rate (11.6 K/9) that could result in baseball's first 300-strikeout campaign in more than a decade. The 27-year-old is arguably the most stable player on this list, as it would seem that only an injury could keep him from extending his excellence into next season.
Josh Donaldson, third baseman (Blue Jays): Trout's main competition to win the 2015 American League MVP Award, Donaldson has thrived during his first year north of the border. To date, he is hitting .300 with 36 homers, 112 RBIs and 104 runs over 595 plate appearances. The 29-year-old can match Trout in the power categories and, now that Trout no longer amasses many steals, there is little separation in that area, either. If the Blue Jays keep their high-scoring lineup intact through the offseason, Donaldson will be poised to accumulate massive counting-stat totals once again in '16. Even though the third-base position possesses many quality fantasy options, it is arguably less deep than the outfield pool.
Giancarlo Stanton, outfielder (Marlins): Prior to landing on the disabled list in June, Stanton had compiled 27 homers and 67 RBIs through 74 games played. Had the 25-year-old stayed healthy, he may have been able to tally 55 homers and 135 RBIs this season -- even as part of one of the Majors' weakest lineups. Stanton has swiped 17 bases since the beginning of 2014, so he could stay even with Trout in that category next year. Though he is unlikely to post a .300 average, the slugger hit .290 in '12 and .288 in '14. Next season's fantasy owners could choose to bypass Trout and select the favorite to lead baseball in home runs.
All statistics are accurate through the completion of Saturday's games.
Fred Zinkie is the lead fantasy baseball writer for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FredZinkieMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.