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Fantasy411 Podcast: Stanton vs. Harper

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The following is a transcript of a segment from this week's Fantasy411 podcast, hosted by MLB.com lead fantasy writer Fred Zinkie and MLB.com's Matthew Leach. To hear the rest of their discussion, subscribe to the Fantasy411 podcast by clicking here.

Matthew Leach: We move to another of the game's elite sluggers and a guy who has just been otherworldly lately. Giancarlo Stanton is having a power surge, the likes of which we haven't seen many times, really in our lifetimes. And we've seen a lot of power. If you are over about 15, you have seen a lot of power surges in your life as a baseball fan. But we haven't seen many like this. He's on another planet. It's very early, and we don't know how he finishes the season. If he tails off from here, then it's a great six weeks and not a setting of a new level. But let's figure what we know now. How high is he putting himself in a 2018 conversation?

The following is a transcript of a segment from this week's Fantasy411 podcast, hosted by MLB.com lead fantasy writer Fred Zinkie and MLB.com's Matthew Leach. To hear the rest of their discussion, subscribe to the Fantasy411 podcast by clicking here.

Matthew Leach: We move to another of the game's elite sluggers and a guy who has just been otherworldly lately. Giancarlo Stanton is having a power surge, the likes of which we haven't seen many times, really in our lifetimes. And we've seen a lot of power. If you are over about 15, you have seen a lot of power surges in your life as a baseball fan. But we haven't seen many like this. He's on another planet. It's very early, and we don't know how he finishes the season. If he tails off from here, then it's a great six weeks and not a setting of a new level. But let's figure what we know now. How high is he putting himself in a 2018 conversation?

Fred Zinkie: I think he put himself back in the first round for sure. And I think if he finishes the season strong, like if he ends up with a home run total in the high 50s, whether he gets to 60 or not, like if he gets north of 55, say 55 or more, I think then he moves -- to me I kind of try to think of it.

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In my head, obviously Trout is ahead of him. I think Altuve is ahead of him. I think Goldschmidt is still ahead of him. I think Arenado is still ahead of him. Whether you want to put pitchers ahead of him is more up to the individual drafter, but I think he's then after that. I think he's put himself back into the middle of the first round.

I think that we can't overlook the fact that he's been injured so many times in previous seasons. But to me, the big story on Stanton at the end of the year will be whether he plays throughout the season without going on the disabled list. That to me is the big story, because saying that Stanton would lead the league in homers if he didn't go on the DL, well that made a lot of sense. The big variable to me is that he hasn't gone on the DL.

Video: Mattingly on Stanton's career year up to this point

And I know this recent stretch is ridiculously hot, but I think most people would believe if Stanton did play all six months of the season that he would have at some point a really nice hot streak. This might be a little hotter than they imagined, but I think he's into the top 10 for next year if he just doesn't go on the DL the rest of the way. Are you as optimistic on him as I am?

ML: Yeah, I think that's entirely reasonable. You know, one of the things that jumps out to me and the parallel to his 2014 season, which was his previous best season, is that this guy who at his best can hit .280. He hit .288 in '14, and he's hitting .287 this year. Now a lot of that is because how often the ball is just leaving the yard. It doesn't have a chance to fall into somebody's glove. I think that's one of the things that stands out about him. He does have that in his bag of clubs. He hit .290 in '12. It's been really up and down, and he hit .240 last year. But he does have that .280-to-.290 ability. This is not the first time he's done it. This is not out of nowhere. He's a guy who can hit for elite power and hit for average at the same time.

Video: Zinkie on the fantasy impact of Harper's injury

The question I would have, and I think one guy you didn't mention in terms of that map is, let's say Harper comes back enough to be confident that he's right. He comes back, even if it's a week or two, and he's really good in the postseason. Or he comes back for two or three weeks down the stretch and does enough to really show that this is just an injury that happened in-season, and he's fine. There's no reason to worry about that for next season. Where do you put those guys relative to each other for 2018?

FZ: You actually just stole my follow-up question, because that's what I was going to ask you. I think Harper and Stanton are really interesting comparables. Once you get past those first four of five players who have been really consistent in recent seasons, I think they're that middle-of-the-first-round, high-risk, high-reward.

I mean, Harper has clearly been injury-prone in his career so far, and he has that 2016 season where he underperformed. Stanton has had stretches where he's underperformed and has been injury-prone. I think they're very comparable. I think I slightly lean Harper, but if Stanton hits 60 home runs this year, then I may swing back to him. If you were drafting for '18 today, would you rather have Harper or Stanton?

Video: Trout reaches 1K, Harper hits his 150th career HR

ML: I think I have Harper by a nose partly because, and you can sort of look at his 2016 in a couple of different ways. You can say it was a bad year. I think, and he's even hinted at this recently, he never admitted it during the season. But here were reports, there was evidence in the numbers, there was evidence in watching him, it certainly appeared that he was dealing with a significant physical injury last year. I believe it was his shoulder. So to me, on the one hand, that's another piece of evidence that he has trouble staying healthy. On the other hand, I don't take it as a ding on his performance.

I think the real Bryce Harper is 2015 and '17, and what we saw in '16 was a physically compromised player. So I think the real Harper is an over-.300, 40-plus homer guy playing in one of the best lineups in the game. I take him by a nose, but I think it's a really fair and interesting question, and I think that the point is that those two guys, as you know, are in pretty similar places when we're talking about '18 drafting.

FZ: Yeah. That'll be the middle of the first round. I think you want to risk one of them, and I'll throw Kershaw in with them as well because if they play for six months, they're game-changers, huge assets to your team, but with Kershaw it doesn't matter what happens the rest of the way. There's going to be a significant question about whether he plays six months next season. I think that'll be the real risk-reward in the middle of the first round next year.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.