Catcher is probably the most frustrating fantasy position. There aren’t many great options, catchers tend to take a lot of time off and there is always a worry that your catcher will get taken out the way Buster Posey was.
The only reason I draft a catcher is because I have to. With that said, let’s get into the top 10:
10 Geovany Soto – Chicago Cubs
Soto is a risk but he’s a risk that I’m willing to take. He is wildly inconsistent at the plate and his batting average the last few seasons reflects that.
The reason I would take a risk on him, though, is his power. He has 68 HRs in four full seasons in the majors (71 total) and plays in hitter-friendly Wrigley Field. In a position without much depth it is good to find a power hitter in a small park like Soto.
9. Joe Mauer – Minnesota Twins
I love Mauer and feel like I’m ranking him too low but his injury history and decreasing power are causes for concern.
Anyone reading this probably knows this former MVP has the ability to be a top 10 overall fantasy player but his 2011 injuries really held him back. I wish his injuries were “normal” so I can have an idea how healthy he is now. However, he had leg weakness, a viral infection and pneumonia. I can’t trust a catcher who suffers from leg weakness when I have no idea how severe the injury truly is.
8. Yadier Molina – St. Louis Cardinals
Molina has always been a great defensive catcher but fantasy owners can finally celebrate his improving offensive numbers and increasing fantasy value.
Last season Molina hit a career-high 14 home runs and batted .305 while being a major part of the Cardinals unlikely World Series run. In 2012, I believe that Molina can boost his home run total again without hurting his average too much. I don’t think that 17 HRs and a .295 average is impossible for him.
7. Buster Posey – San Francisco Giants
Much like Mauer, Posey is a high-risk, high-reward catcher with some injury issues.
In 2011 the former Rookie of the Year had a horrific lower leg injury that he sustained while blocking the plate. This season he should be healthy for opening day but there are still concerns.
It is unsure if Posey will need a position change at some point this season or if his injury will affect his swing but in a position with such little depth I think he is worth the risk.
6. Alex Avila – Detroit Tigers
Avila was a top 5 fantasy catcher in 2011 and will get another chance to shine due to Victor Martinez’s knee injury that will sideline him for most (possibly all) of 2012.
I really hate ranking him here but there are too many questions and too little depth in the catcher position. I feel like Avila will regress this season but the Posey and Mauer injuries push him up in my rankings.
Logic tells me to be safe and rank Avila here but my gut tells me to take a chance on Posey.
The Avila/Posey problem I just mentioned reminds me of one of the most important rules of any fantasy sport. No “analyst” is always right. Injuries happen, some players have bad luck and others just underperform. Always follow your gut when drafting. I only point out statistics and trends but sometimes a gut instinct is all you need for fantasy success.
I’ll be back with the top 5.
I missed a few days of blogging due to some wifi problems so I’m going to do a megapost today and rank all of my top 10 shortstops. I’ll start with a sleeper though:
Sean Rodriguez (Tampa Bay Rays) - Rodriguez is the type of player I love to have on my team. He’s a solid player, he’s in a good lineup, has potential to be great and, most importantly, position eligibility.
Last year Rodriguez was an effective player but never got a chance to start in one position. This season he looks to be the Rays’ opening day shortstop and has a chance to keep the job. I’m not sure just how good Rodriguez can be but he showed me enough last season to take a chance on him. Even if he doesn’t have a great season he can be useful for filling a lineup spot because of another player’s injury or day off.
Let’s start the top 10:
10. Erick Aybar – Los Angeles Angels
Many fantasy analysts stress about Aybar’s low OBP. If OBP is a category in your league then it might be a concern for you too. I’m not worried about it though.
The reason I’m not worried is Albert Pujols. Pujols spot in the lineup takes a lot of pressure off of Aybar. Instead of being forced into the hit-and-run strategy of the Angels he can relax at the plate and focus on reaching first for Albert.
It may take some time for him to adjust but I expect him to relax, increase his walks/OBP, steals and runs.
9./8. JJ Hardy – Baltimore Orioles or Alexei Ramirez – Chicago White Sox
I had a hard time choosing between these two players. These guys fall into the “what do you need” category.
I expect Hardy to hit more home runs and have more RBIs but I think Ramirez will steal more bases and score more runs. I don’t anticipate one guy hitting for a considerably better average than the other.
Both players are valuable but choosing one over the other comes down to draft strategy. Fantasy owners with a lot of power may lean toward Ramirez to boost their steal potential or they can try to guarantee their home runs each week by drafting Hardy. The same strategy works for faster teams with less power.
As long as both players stay healthy they both have value.
7. Asdrubal Cabrera – Cleveland Indians
Cabrera gets the benefit of a good season here. In 2011 he matched his single-season high in steals (17) and hit 7 more home runs than his previous career total (25 in 2011; 18 total 2007-2010). He also had 24 more RBIs than his previous best season.
I’m cautiously optimistic that he can come close to matching his 2011 stats. If he can than he might need to be ranked higher but I’m not ready to do that. I think he’s going to fall in nearly every category that I mentioned and this #7 spot might even be generous.
6. Starlin Castro – Chicago Cubs
Castro is one of the most skilled shortstops in the league but he’s too much of a risk to put in the top 5.
He’s been known to take plays off and was part of a sexual assault investigation earlier this year. If he can focus on baseball he might finish the season ranked second or third at his position.
Castro is only 22 and entering his third season in the majors. He has hit .300 in his first two seasons and showed improvements in both power and speed from 2010 to 2011. I think he may improve more this season but he needs to be dedicated to the game.
Halftime! Let’s talk about a guy that will kill your team:
Jed Lowrie – Houston Astros - It hurts me to say this because I love Lowrie. As a Sox fan I wished and hoped for the day he would be healthy. Unfortunately he spent too much time on the DL and only teased me when he got on the field.
For a stretch in early 2011 Lowrie was a key component to turning around the Sox after a terrible start. I want him to play well but I just don’t see it
Back to the top 5:
5. Elvis Andrus – Texas Rangers
Andrus and Castro are in a Hardy/Ramirez situation but I personally like Andrus more. I think he is more consistent on the field, has a better lineup around him and is much faster.
The steal/HR ratio is really important here. I think Castro will hit a little better and have a few more home runs but I think Andrus will have a lot more steals and runs.
I don’t think you can go wrong with either player but I would choose Andrus earlier.
4. Jimmy Rollins – Philadelphia Phillies
Rollins is getting older and has had some injury issues in the past but he’s still one of the most consistent offensive shortstops.
He’s a base-stealer, a run-scorer and shows good power for a shortstop. He’ll likely bat near .275 and all of his stats make him one of the few consistent players in this very shallow talent pool. Shortstop is an awful fantasy position and Rollins earned his spot in the top 5.
3. Jose Reyes – Miami Marlins
Reyes and the other members of the top 3 are all elite players. There is a considerable drop off in fantasy value after Reyes. My strategy has always been to draft one elite shortstop or second basemen and hope for sleepers later. If you want an elite shortstop then this is where it starts.
Reyes was the 2011 NL batting champ. He may have left the game to protect his title but a .337 average speaks for itself. He also had 39 steals, 101 runs and 44 RBIs in a terrible Mets lineup.
Now he’s in a much better Marlins lineup and will bat in front of 2010 HR derby runner-up Hanley Ramirez and Giancarlo (Mike; he changed his name today) Stanton, one of the most impressive young power hitters in the game.
I’m not sure that he can hit .337 again but I love his base-stealing ability and the amount of runs he can score with Hanley and Stanton behind him.
2. Hanley Ramirez – Miami Marlins
Ramirez is moving to third base this season and now has eligibility at both positions. He’s extremely valuable and I ranked him here.
1. Troy Tulowitzki – Colorado Rockies
Tulowitzki is first round talent in one of the most difficult fantasy positions to fill. I drafted him in several leagues last season and traded him in one. I received ARod, Ben Zobrist & some free beer. I won the league so it was worth it but I never felt good about it.
Tulo has unnatural power for a shortstop. Last season he hit 32 home runs which is the second 30-HR season in his six-year career. He hit .302 with 105 RBIs and plays in one of the most hitter-friendly parks in the majors.
Many mock drafts show Tulo being taken in the middle of the first round and that’s exactly where I would take him.
I have a lot to get to in this post so let’s start with the assassin:
Ian Stewart – Chicago Cubs
Stewart hit .156 with 0 home runs last season. He also played in only 48 games. He now gets the chance to start for the Chicago Cubs. A slight upside is that he has shown decent power numbers in the past and will be playing in hitter-friendly Wrigley Field. The downside to that is that he hit 0 home runs in Coors Field last year.
Emilio Bonifacio – Miami Marlins
Bonifacio won’t play much at third this season but he currently has eligibility as an outfielder, third basemen and shortstop. He’ll likely be the Marlins starting center fielder but he’ll help fantasy owners with his ability to be shuffled around the lineup.
Bonifacio is very fast and will hit near the top of the lineup. His ability to get on base, steal & then get into scoring position for Hanley Ramirez and Mike Stanton make him a great late-round pick.
Players That Just Missed The Cut
Before I get into my top 5 I want to explain why certain players aren’t in my top 10. Kevin Youkilis and David Wright get the Chase Utley treatment. Both guys are better then some of the players I have ranked and David Wright is in many analysts’ top 5. I don’t doubt their fantasy value at all and will love drafting them but I won’t stretch for them. They both have injury issues and Wright will have to deal with trade talks all summer. Not sure how he’ll react to that pressure.
5. Adrian Beltre – Texas Rangers
Beltre may have silenced his doubters when he performed so well last season. Before 2011 he was known for playing his best in contract years. Last season, though, he hit .296 with 32 homers and 105 RBIs.
I expect roughly the same type of season from Beltre this year. He’ll flirt with 30 HRs and a .300 average and his RBIs should be in the triple digits again. If he doesn’t perform at a high level all of the contract-year doubters will never let Beltre owners live this season down.
4. Hanley Ramirez – Miami Marlins
Here is the first new third basemen in the rankings. He isn’t happy about the move but I think Ramirez will settle in quickly and put up elite numbers after an injury-plagued 2011 season.
Miami is going to be a fun team to watch this season and Hanley will be a big part of it. I expect a big increase in his average and I believe that his home run and RBI numbers from 2011 will double.
The only concern I have about Hanley is how he’ll handle being moved to third base. If he doesn’t adjust then I think he’ll let his poor attitude affect his offense.
3. Evan Longoria – Tampa Bay Rays
This guy has done everything to show that he has all the skills necessary to be one of the best players in the league. The problem is that he’s never put all his skills together for a full season.
I think 2012 will be the year it happens. I expect his average to be much better than the .244 he hit last season. I also expect better numbers in runs, home runs, stolen bases and RBIs.
2. Jose Bautista – Toronto Blue Jays
Bautista exploded onto the scene into 2010 and was a monster for the first half of 2011. He cooled off after the All-Star break but still had a respectable season.
I’m not worried about his second half decline though. He is one of the most feared hitters in the MLB for his ability to hit for average and power. He should be able to reach triple digit totals in RBIs, runs and walks. This makes him an even bigger threat in leagues with an OBP category.
1. Miguel Cabrera – Detroit Tigers
This is the other player moving to the hot corner. He’ll gain third base eligibility very soon and he is my choice for top fantasy batter. He’s worthy of a first overall pick in any league. Read what I wrote about him here.
Third base is a very fun position for fantasy owners. It is deeper than second base but not quite as deep as first. Two fantasy studs are moving to the hot corner as well. Depending on the type of league that you’re in, they may or may not have third base eligibility yet. Because they will be full-time third basemen and should gain eligibility soon I will rank both of them.
UPDATE: First base fantasy assassin Mark Trumbo is transitioning to third base and took a bad hop to the face today. No word on how bad the injury is but Trumbo can be a very good option at third if he can improve his defense enough to stay on the field.
Let’s start ranking:
10. Ryan Roberts – Arizona Diamondbacks
I put this guy in the second base rankings.
9. Alex Rodriguez – New York Yankees
Let’s be honest and admit he’s not as great as he once was. He’s still very good but age and injuries have caught up to him. It happens to everyone and it’s happening to ARod now.
He is in the right situation to remain valuable to fantasy owners though. He is surrounded by talent so his runs and RBIs should be high. He also plays home and division games in smaller ballparks which should boost his disappointing 2011 HR total.
8. Brett Lawrie – Toronto Blue Jays
This guy can be the steal of your draft. If your gut instincts tell you to draft him then don’t hesitate. This guy has top 5 potential written all over him. The only reason I ranked him this low is because he only has 150 career at-bats.
Lawrie was very impressive last year but his body of work is too small for me to rank him any higher. I can’t put such an inexperienced player too high on my list, especially because of the pitching in the AL East. I have my eye on him though.
7. Michael Young – Texas Rangers
I ranked him already too.
6. Ryan Zimmerman – Washington Nationals
Zimmerman has had some injury problems, including an abdominal injury last year that sidelined him for 58 games, but I still have a lot of faith in him.
He definitely didn’t have one of his best seasons in 2011 but if he can stay healthy I expect him to be much better in 2012. A good sign for Zimmerman owners is that he played really well after returning to the lineup from his abdominal injury but skeptics still remain.
Because so many people are worried about him coming off a poor season he can fall in the draft. If he does I wouldn’t hesitate to pick him up.
Tomorrow I’ll be back with the top 5 (including two brand new third basemen) and the three guys who very narrowly missed the cut. I’ll also have a sleeper & assassin.
Haven’t updated in a while. Was busy but I should back to daily updates now. Today I’ll rank my top 5 second basemen with my top sleeper pick and my worst assassin.
Big news today. Ryan Braun won his appeal and Rickie Weeks’ value has gone up.
Before I start that I want to address something: Chase Utley won’t be in my rankings. I have him ranked at 11 and I know that’s a little controversial. Utley probably deserves to be ranked but I don’t trust him to stay healthy for an entire season. He’s missed 106 games combined in the past two seasons and his numbers have been down when he does play. He deserves to be drafted and may perform better than some of my #10-6 guys when healthy. However, I would rather draft a player that I think can stay healthy so I don’t need to find a weak replacement during the season. If second base was as deep as first I would have no problem drafting Chase.
Time for my sleeper.
Jemile Weeks (Oakland A’s) - Jemile Weeks may suffer from Neil Walker-Syndrome when it comes to the poor lineup around him but he has a very-good skill that makes him attractive to fantasy owners.
Weeks’ speed can make him a great late addition to your team. I think he will finish in the top 3 of stolen bases for second basemen. With a position as weak as second base I think it’s a good idea to draft one with an elite skill ahead of a guy that will probably fill roster spots for a few days before being dropped again.
Now the assassin.
Gordon Beckham (Chicago White Sox) – This guy is awful. I predict a sub-.250 batting average, single digit HRs, single-digit steals and below-average RBIs. No need to say anything more.
Now my Top 5.
5. Brandon Phillips – Cincinnati Reds
Phillips has been an above-average player just waiting to break out. If his offensive abilities can match his incredible defense he can be ranked even higher.
I enjoy drafting Reds’ players and Phillips has been my favorite second base choice for two years. The reason I love Reds is their ballpark. It’s tiny, which makes for one of the best environments for hitters.
Phillips is probably the most consistent offensive player in the majors but I think this year will be a bit of a breakout for his home runs. I’ve drafted him over-and-over again and patiently waited for a spike in his home runs at home. I think this will be the year but, if not, I still think he’ll bat just under .300 with 20 home runs.
4. Ben Zobrist – Tampa Bay Rays
I might as well copy Brandon Phillips’ numbers and paste them here. If you’re in an ESPN standard league these guys are basically equal. The reason Zobrist get bumped ahead of Phillips in the rankings is because he also has outfield eligibility.
3. Ian Kinsler – Texas Rangers
Kinsler gets bumped up in the rankings because of his team. He’s an extremely talented player but he’s injury-prone. The good news is that he played a career-high in games last season though.
Kinsler is surrounded by talent and that is a big factor in his numbers. The Rangers don’t have an easy out in their lineup. No matter where he bats in the lineup there is a strong possibility he’ll have a chance at picking up RBIs and/or scoring runs.
2. Robinson Cano – New York Yankees
Cano is one of the only two second basemen that I feel confident using a first or second round draft pick on. This guy has it all.
He hits for average and power and is surrounded by talent comparable to Ian Kinsler. The 2011 HR Derby champ hit 28 homers during the regular season and I think he has a chance to increase that number to 30. Along with the high home run total he should hit around .300 with triple digits totals in runs and RBIs. It would not be a surprise at all if he finishes as the top second basemen this season.
1. Dustin Pedroia – Boston Red Sox
Pedroia and Cano will likely battle for the top spot of fantasy second basemen. If they both stay healthy a fantasy owner should be glad to have them. It’s hard to choose one over the other because they have different strengths but I’m going to lean toward Dustin (and I’m a die-hard Sox fan).
I think Pedroia will put up better stats in batting average and runs. He should also dominate stolen bases. Pedroia also has the ability to hit 20 home runs and flirt with triple digits in RBIs. Except for home runs, I don’t believe Cano can outperform Pedroia in any standard statistical category by so much that he should be ranked ahead of him.
I promise that I’ll be back tomorrow with some third base info.
Second base is an interesting position for fantasy owners. It isn’t a deep position so owners need to make a choice between drafting a top second basemen or filling their team with role players in later rounds. Neither strategy is bad but an owner must feel really good about burning an early pick on someone like Dustin Pedroia or Robinson Cano.
I noticed a disturbing trend in these early picks though. Fantasy owners often panic when the top 3-4 second basemen are drafted. They look ahead at who is left and worry that they missed out. This is when they stretch for players and draft guys two or three rounds ahead of where they belong. A smart fantasy owner uses their mistakes to draft better-quality players and find late round talent in the middle-infield.
Because this position has less talent I’m only going to rank my top 10. The list begins with:
10. Neil Walker – Pittsburgh Pirates
Walker is a very safe option at second base. Last season he batted .273 with 12 homers and 83 RBIs. It isn’t great but I already mentioned that this wasn’t a deep position. Last year he struck out 112 times to only 54 walks but I think he’ll have a much better K/SO ratio this year and his average & OBP will come up.
The problem I have with Walker is his lineup. It isn’t very good. I wonder how many players will get on base for him to bring home and how many times someone will have a timely hit to score him. I see runs and RBIs being a problem and that is why I ranked him this low.
9. Rickie Weeks – Milwaukee Brewers
Weeks is a player whose fantasy value can jump later this season, with the return of Ryan Braun, but as of right now he’s my #9.
Weeks showed great power for a leadoff hitter by hitting 20 home runs in 128 games last season. He crossed the plate 77 times and hit .269.
My concern lies in a potential new role for Weeks. He only scored 77 runs last season with Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun batting 3-4 in the lineup. Now Fielder is gone and Braun will likely miss some time due to suspension. He may be forced out of the leadoff spot, but if he’s not, who will bring him home with those RBI machines gone?
He may lead the Brewers in home runs this season but until someone in that lineup steps up or Braun comes back, I can’t rank him higher than this based on his low production in other categories.
8. Dan Uggla – Atlanta Braves
Should I become the millionth blogger/reporter to use the phrase “Uggla was ugly in 2011?” I guess I kind of did but it’s true.
Uggla had a hot hitting streak and played very well in July (batting .293, 8 homers & 19 RBIs) and August (.340, 10 & 21) but was abysmal from March-June and below average in Sept. & Oct. Uggla was so bad that he hit .194 in March/April, .160 in May and .179 in June. He only had 12 homers and 28 RBIs in those months combined.
I know it seems strange that I just spent a paragraph ripping Uggla but ranking him ahead of Weeks, who I said may lead his team in home runs, but that’s because I’m cautiously optimistic this season. I don’t think he’ll have a career year but I do think he’s a top 10 guy.
7. Howard Kendrick – Los Angeles Angels
Kendrick had a solid season in 2011. He hit .285, 18 homers, 6 triples, 14 steals, 86 runs and 63 RBIs. That stat line shows how versatile a player he is and that’s exactly what fantasy owners want. He’ll contribute to every category and will get plenty of at-bats from hitting early in the lineup.
Kendrick also has Albert Pujols batting third in the lineup now. If Pujols isn’t walked too often it seems obvious that his runs will increase.
6. Ryan Roberts – Arizona Diamondbacks
Roberts is one of those guys that will not play second very often but becomes a more valuable fantasy option because he has 2nd/3rd base eligibility.
He was a big force in the Diamondbacks’ improbable playoff run and I expect a much bigger season from him this year. He hit .350 with two home runs and six RBIs in five postseason games last season. Those numbers tell me that he likes success and doesn’t crumble on a big stage.
This year the DBacks aren’t going to sneak up on anyone and I bet he improves his regular season numbers to help his team back into the postseason.
Tomorrow I’ll write a longer entry with my top sleeper, top assassin and finish my rankings.
Today seems like a good day to unveil my top 5 first basemen for the upcoming season. Before I get into the rankings I wanted to name my deepest sleeper for 2012.
Anthony Rizzo (Chicago Cubs) - Rizzo is not a player that should be drafted but he may be a hot waiver wire pick later this season.
He was one of the top players in the Red Sox farm system but was traded to the Padres as part of the Adrian Gonzalez deal. He didn’t impress anyone with his .141 batting average and 46 strikeouts in 49 games last season but Theo Epstein likes him enough to bring him to the Cubs.
Rizzo is currently behind Bryan LaHair on the Cubs’ depth chart but may get the chance to start later this season or earn the job during spring training. Now the top 5:
5. Prince Fielder – Detroit Tigers
Fielder played in every game last season and hit .299 with 38 homers and 120 RBIs. he put up those numbers while batting behind the NL MVP and now he’ll be in another dangerous 3-4 combo with Miguel Cabrera.
This should be another big year for Fielder. He is even more valuable in leagues where walks and OBP are categories. He and Cabrera will likely lead the Tigers to an AL Central title and I expect both of them to be MVP candidates.
4. Joey Votto – Cincinnati Reds
Many casual baseball fans didn’t know who Joey Votto was in 2009. He changed that the following year.
The 2010 NL MVP was a triple crown candidate for much of that season. In 2011 his average, steals and home run numbers all came down but there isn’t a big problem when his “poor season” included a .309 average, 29 home runs, 8 steals and triple digits in both walks and RBIs.
Votto is clearly the top first baseman in the NL this year if he stays healthy. He has played in at least 130 games each season since he became a full-time starter in 2008 so his health should not be a factor.
3. Albert Pujols – Los Angeles Angels
It feels a little dirty ranking Pujols anywhere but first but I’m even hesitant to rank him this high.
Pujols’ well-publicized change of scenery to California may have been the best financial option for him but I think it will hurt his fantasy value. In St. Louis, Matt Holliday’s dangerous bat forced pitchers to get Pujols out. However, his move to Anaheim puts him in a much weaker lineup. I expect his OBP and Walks to skyrocket but many leagues do not use those categories in their standard settings.
It is hard to pass up Albert Pujols but with a shaky cleanup hitter situation I don’t anticipate his offensive numbers to be as good as they were for the past several seasons.
2. Adrian Gonzalez – Boston Red Sox
Last year I used my 5th overall pick on AGon in a 26-category Yahoo league. Many league members questioned my choice but Gonzalez proved me right. He hit .338 with 117 RBIs and 108 runs. He even legged out three triples.
This year I expect his average to remain steady but I expect his home runs (27 in 2011) to increase and his strikeouts to come down. The loaded Red Sox lineup should give opposing pitchers nightmares and Gonzalez will hit right in the middle of it.
1. Miguel Cabrera – Detroit Tigers
The strangest thing about this choice is that Miggy won’t spend much time playing first base this season. Because of the Prince Fielder signing, Cabrera will move over to third base but will maintain his first base eligibility.
Last season Cabrera led the majors in batting average and doubles. He also batted in 105 regular-season runs, crossed home plate 111 times and went deep 30 times. The addition of Fielder may mean that Cabrera won’t see as many good pitches this season but if that’s the case, it will likely boost his 2011 majors-leading OBP.
Some players that missed the cut are Ryan Howard, Carlos Lee, Mark Reynolds and Adam Lind. Tomorrow I’ll start ranking my top second basemen for this season.