2012 fantasy baseball spring preview: My draft board

Come draft day, stay away from this guy. (Layne Murdoch/Getty Images)

There are thousands of websites posting their top -300 player rankings for everyone to hoot and holler over … blah, blah, blah. These rankings may work for some, but I don’t ever look at these because, if you do any online draft, they are already in this order. Most of the time, I can look at someone’s sleeper list and a list of rookie players who will make an impact, then do my draft off of that. But, some people like looking at player rankings, and I don’t particularly want to rank 500 players.

Solution? I am creating a draft-day big board using someone else’s top-1,000, pre-draft rankings. I am doing this because, in an actual ranking, I might put Nelson Cruz in my top 50 or 60; however, on my draft board, Cruz is going in my “I don’t care how far they fall, I’m not drafting this guy” section. To me, looking at the draft in this way is more beneficial. You may look at this and not agree what tier I put Evan Longoria in or who I put in my undesirables tier, but I am giving you the model to rank players. I implore everyone to make his or her own big board.

For this exercise, I am going to use Tristan Cockcroft’s top 150 players from ESPN. Any list that you look at basically rips his off anyway. So, let’s get started by cutting players I will never draft in standard mixed 10-12 team leagues.

Tier Undesireable 2011
Player Team Pos Age Player Rater
Adrian Beltre Tex 3B 32 39
Dan Haren LAA SP 31 31
Josh Hamilton Tex OF 30 43
Dan Uggla Atl 2B 32 138
Michael Bourn Atl OF 29 19
Nelson Cruz Tex OF 31 90
Brandon Phillips Cin 2B 30 33
Shin-Soo Choo Cle OF 29 355
Jimmy Rollins Phi SS 33 58
Mariano Rivera NYY RP 42 59
B.J. Upton TB OF 27 45
Brett Gardner NYY OF 28 63
Matt Wieters Bal C 25 169
Jayson Werth Wsh OF 32 175
David Ortiz Bos DH 36 37
Carlos Beltran StL OF 34 69
Josh Beckett Bos SP 31 44
Yu Darvish Tex SP 25
Ichiro Suzuki Sea OF 38 72
Alexei Ramirez CWS SS 30 151
Derek Jeter NYY SS 37 96
Ervin Santana LAA SP 29 120
Melky Cabrera SF OF 27 23


Now, out of 150 players we are looking at, I just cut 23 out. I have my reasons for not liking these guys but it usually falls under one of four categories: They have burned me in the past, I think they are injury prone, I just think that they are too old and past their primes, or I just do not like them. I bet you are thinking, “Yu Darvish?” How does he fall into one of these categories? For me, foreign players are always over-hyped. They are stay-away guys who are a disappointment nine times out of 10 . (Note: I decided not to include every single closer on this list. Unless he can guarantee 40+ saves, I don’t want to burn the draft pick.)

Top-Tier Guys 2011
Player Team Pos Age Player Rater
Ryan Braun Mil OF 28 3
Miguel Cabrera Det 1B 28 7
Albert Pujols LAA 1B 32 14
Matt Kemp LAD OF 27 1
Troy Tulowitzki Col SS 27 30
Joey Votto Cin 1B 28 18
Jose Bautista Tor 3B/OF 31 9
Robinson Cano NYY 2B 29 16
Justin Upton Ari OF 24 15
Jacoby Ellsbury Bos OF 28 2
Roy Halladay Phi SP 34 10
Adrian Gonzalez Bos 1B 29 8
Justin Verlander Det SP 29 4
Clayton Kershaw LAD SP 24 5


This is my cream-of-the-crop tier. Each player, with the exception of Halladay, is in his prime and offers little risk. We could nitpick here and there about whether these guys belong or not, but when push comes to shove, if you have a chance in the second round at one of these guys, you would be foolish to pass by. I was a little worried about Pujols in a new league until I remembered he is a robot.

Favorite: Justin Upton. I felt that he came into his own at the end of last season.

Least favorite: Roy Halladay. The guy has to slow down some time.

Toughest omissions: Prince Fielder. New team (Carl Crawford anyone?) and tougher division. Evan Longoria. I just have not seen him put it together yet. Hanley Ramirez. Sour attitude & new position.

Second Tier 2011
Player Team Pos Age Player Rater
Prince Fielder Det 1B 27 20
Evan Longoria TB 3B 26 125
Hanley Ramirez Mia SS 28 247
Carlos Gonzalez Col OF 26 26
Cliff Lee Phi SP 33 11
Dustin Pedroia Bos 2B 28 13
Curtis Granderson NYY OF 31 6
Felix Hernandez Sea SP 25 84
Andrew McCutchen Pit OF 25 48
Cole Hamels Phi SP 28 29
Jose Reyes Mia SS 28 17
Jered Weaver LAA SP 29 12
Mark Teixeira NYY 1B 31 67
Mark Teixeira NYY 1B 31 67
Tim Lincecum SF SP 27 57
Giancarlo Stanton Mia OF 22 74
David Wright NYM 3B 29 207


After the first tier, it would not surprise me if any of these guys went next. Maybe you are drinking the Giancarlo Stanton Kool-Aid. Maybe you think Reyes explodes again this season. Again, all of these players are in their primes and come with some upside of producing like someone in the first round. The reason they did not make my first tier is because there is a lot more risk with these guys than the top-tier guys.

Favorite: Evan Longoria. He is hitting his prime years of production.

Least favorite: Jose Reyes. Hamstring.

Toughest omissions: Ian Kinsler. Injury risk. Zack Grienke. He was tough for me because he is one of my sleepers.

Third Tier 2011
Player Team Pos Age Player Rater
Ian Kinsler Tex 2B 29 21
Zack Greinke Mil SP 28 115
Elvis Andrus Tex SS 23 50
Jay Bruce Cin OF 24 65
David Price TB SP 26 66
CC Sabathia NYY SP 31 35
Hunter Pence Phi OF 28 32
Paul Konerko CWS 1B 36 41
Ryan Zimmerman Wsh 3B 27 248
Mike Napoli Tex C/1B 30 68
Matt Holliday StL OF 32 89
Carlos Santana Cle C/1B 25 143


This was a pretty easy section to put together, although I should have just put Kinsler in the undesirables section because there is no way he would fall this far in a draft.

Favorite: Matt Holliday. VORP is 46.6 which is too much value to pass up.

Least favorite: Jay Bruce. Power he has, but everything else sucks.

Toughest omissions: Craig Kimbrel. It’s against my DNA to take closer with my third pick.

Fourth Tier 2011
Player Team Pos Age Player Rater
Craig Kimbrel Atl RP 23 27
Eric Hosmer KC 1B 22 81
Desmond Jennings TB OF 25 270
Pablo Sandoval SF 3B 25 98
Starlin Castro ChC SS 22 34
Chase Utley Phi 2B 33 261


This is my “I will have to reach if I want one of these guys” tier. With the exception of Utley, all of these guys could return big time value. They are the bright and shiny new faces of the MLB everyone would like to own. Utley is a guy who could be back to his former first- or second-round self and everybody knows it.

Favorite: Kimbrel. He is a closer that could get you 40+ saves.

Toughest omissions: None.

Fifth Tier 2011
Player Team Pos Age Player Rater
Alex Gordon KC OF 28 24
Matt Cain SF SP 27 51
Jon Lester Bos SP 28 119
Yovani Gallardo Mil SP 26 79
James Shields TB SP 30 22
Kevin Youkilis Bos 3B 33 193
Shane Victorino Phi OF 31 71
Drew Storen Wsh RP 24 53
Rickie Weeks Mil 2B 29 146
Adam Jones Bal OF 26 70
C.J. Wilson LAA SP 31 49
Brian McCann Atl C 28 163
Madison Bumgarner SF SP 22 91
Alex Rodriguez NYY 3B 36 189
Michael Young Tex 1B/3B 35 28
Corey Hart Mil OF 30 95
Michael Morse Wsh 1B/OF 30 42
Ian Kennedy Ari SP 27 25
John Axford Mil RP 29 54
Cameron Maybin SD OF 24 87
Asdrubal Cabrera Cle SS 26 40
Matt Garza ChC SP 28 133
Ben Zobrist TB 2B/OF 30 46


See what I mean about the fourth tier? No one in this tier jumps out at me. If I take one of these guys, I will probably be happy in the long run, but more than likely, I am looking at the next tier.

Favorite: Alex Rodriguez. Have you seen Kobe this year? Dude is killing it. He and Rodriguez happen to have had the same knee surgery that is not legal in the United States.

Least favorite: Cameron Maybin. PETCO, enough said.

Toughest omissions: Billy Butler. He has just enough upside I may reach for him over these guys.

Sixth Tier 2011
Player Team Pos Age Player Rater
Michael Pineda NYY SP 23 136
Billy Butler KC DH 25 86
Jonathan Papelbon Phi RP 31 82
Brett Lawrie Tor 3B 22 419
Daniel Hudson Ari SP 25 92
Carl Crawford Bos OF 30 190
Ricky Romero Tor SP 27 52
Ryan Madson Cin RP 31 118
Matt Moore TB SP 22 656
Stephen Strasburg Wsh SP 23 548
Jordan Zimmermann Wsh SP 25 160
Brian Wilson SF RP 30 145
Mat Latos Cin SP 24 130
Jason Heyward Atl OF 22 386


Another fun round where guys in your league are going to be reaching in this tier. Like I said, I put tier five up and its an “eh, just ok for me dog” type of round. Then we get to this round and it is chalk full of story lines, intrigue and mystique.

Favorite: Carl Crawford. He will end up on a lot of people’s undesirable list, but for me I always want to gamble on at least one guy like this. Out of everyone here he has the highest upside.

Least favorite: Mat Latos. I don’t like pitchers who leave PETCO.

Toughest omission: Buster Posey. Just because I know people will reach for him.

Seventh Tier 2011
Player Team Pos Age Player Rater
Aramis Ramirez Mil 3B 33 47
Howard Kendrick LAA 2B/OF 28 83
Nick Swisher NYY OF 31 128
Nick Markakis Bal OF 28 93
Jose Valverde Det RP 34 62
Freddie Freeman Atl 1B 22 111
Drew Stubbs Cin OF 27 76
Michael Cuddyer Col 1B/OF 33 94
J.J. Putz Ari RP 35 60
Mark Reynolds Bal 1B/3B 28 122
Alex Avila Det C 25 109
Shaun Marcum Mil SP 30 108
Adam Lind Tor 1B 28 172
Gio Gonzalez Wsh SP 26 127
Buster Posey SF C 25 62


For me, this round has some nice value and it is also a good round to fill some needs. Until you see Posey and drop the “Oh shit! He’s still available?” I don’t blame you. He will be hard to pass on.

Favorite: Drew Stubbs. 168 SO is a tough pill to swallow but 17 HR and 36 steals in a shallow outfield crop makes me want to take a risk on this guy

Least favorite: Howard Kendrick. For a rule of thumb, I don’t like guys who change their names unless it’s something cool like Giancarlo.

Toughest omissions: Lance Berkman. I like him better than Reynolds. Tommy Hanson. This guy still is a future ace.

Eighth Tier 2011
Player Team Pos Age Player Rater
Joel Hanrahan Pit RP 30 73
Jeremy Hellickson TB SP 24 104
Lance Berkman StL 1B/OF 36 36
Johnny Cueto Cin SP 26 102
Heath Bell Mia RP 34 85
Tommy Hanson Atl SP 25 166
Miguel Montero Ari C 28 137
Chris Carpenter StL SP 36 171
Brandon Beachy Atl SP 25 209
Joe Mauer Min C 28 490


This is where pitchers start flying off of the board. Other than taking a flier on Hanson’s upside I am going to grab a bat here in this tier.

Favorite: Joe Mauer. Another late-round guy who could give you a big payoff. His VORP (43.7) is nice, too.

Least favorite: Jeremy Hellickson. In a previous post, I explained why this will be a rough year.

Toughest omission: Jesus Montero. People are scared because of where he is playing this season. I still think he is a top-10 catcher.

Ninth Tier 2011
Player Team Pos Age Player Rater
J.J. Hardy Bal SS 29 113
Neftali Feliz Tex RP 23 152
Max Scherzer Det SP 27 243
Anibal Sanchez Mia SP 28 181
Carlos Lee Hou 1B/OF 35 112
Jesus Montero Sea DH 22 790
Logan Morrison Mia OF 24 228
Dustin Ackley Sea 2B 24 383
Neil Walker Pit 2B 26 134
Paul Goldschmidt Ari 1B 24 547
Peter Bourjos LAA OF 25 131
Chris Young Ari OF 28 105
Austin Jackson Det OF 25 161
Jason Motte StL RP 29 178
Ryan Roberts Ari 2B/3B 31 110
Erick Aybar LAA SS 28 77
Adam Wainwright StL SP 30


This round is kind of cleanup round. You want to have most, if not all, of your main positions covered by now. After this round is where you start really reaching for guys that most of your league mates have hopefully never heard of. If you are reaching for Bryce Harper (as of now he is still considered to be in the minor league) before this round, then you are really not getting him at a good value.

Favorite: Adam Wainwright. He is going to be the third or fourth pitcher on your team that could give you top 20 production.

Least favorite: Peter Bourjos. A crowded outfield and if anyone struggles this year they have a very talented Mike Trout waiting in the wings.

Tier 10

After the top 150, you should be reaching for guys you like or reaching for guys that you have been waiting on to fill a certain position. Depending on the size of your roster, this is the time where you can win your draft. Take a flier on a minor leaguer you like or a guy that has been killing it in spring training. Just don’t settle on the next best available player on someone’s top 35,000-player pre-draft ranking.

Related Articles

Back to top button