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 Undesireable2011
PlayerTeamPosAgePlayer Rater
Adrian BeltreTex3B3239
Dan HarenLAASP3131
Josh HamiltonTexOF3043
Dan UgglaAtl2B32138
Michael BournAtlOF2919
Nelson CruzTexOF3190
Brandon PhillipsCin2B3033
Shin-Soo ChooCleOF29355
Jimmy RollinsPhiSS3358
Mariano RiveraNYYRP4259
B.J. UptonTBOF2745
Brett GardnerNYYOF2863
Matt WietersBalC25169
Jayson WerthWshOF32175
David OrtizBosDH3637
Carlos BeltranStLOF3469
Josh BeckettBosSP3144
Yu DarvishTexSP25
Ichiro SuzukiSeaOF3872
Alexei RamirezCWSSS30151
Derek JeterNYYSS3796
Ervin SantanaLAASP29120
Melky CabreraSFOF2723


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 Guys2011
PlayerTeamPosAgePlayer Rater
Ryan BraunMilOF283
Miguel CabreraDet1B287
Albert PujolsLAA1B3214
Matt KempLADOF271
Troy TulowitzkiColSS2730
Joey VottoCin1B2818
Jose BautistaTor3B/OF319
Robinson CanoNYY2B2916
Justin UptonAriOF2415
Jacoby EllsburyBosOF282
Roy HalladayPhiSP3410
Adrian GonzalezBos1B298
Justin VerlanderDetSP294
Clayton KershawLADSP245


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 Tier2011
PlayerTeamPosAgePlayer Rater
Prince FielderDet1B2720
Evan LongoriaTB3B26125
Hanley RamirezMiaSS28247
Carlos GonzalezColOF2626
Cliff LeePhiSP3311
Dustin PedroiaBos2B2813
Curtis GrandersonNYYOF316
Felix HernandezSeaSP2584
Andrew McCutchenPitOF2548
Cole HamelsPhiSP2829
Jose ReyesMiaSS2817
Jered WeaverLAASP2912
Mark TeixeiraNYY1B3167
Mark TeixeiraNYY1B3167
Tim LincecumSFSP2757
Giancarlo StantonMiaOF2274
David WrightNYM3B29207


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 Tier2011
PlayerTeamPosAgePlayer Rater
Ian KinslerTex2B2921
Zack GreinkeMilSP28115
Elvis AndrusTexSS2350
Jay BruceCinOF2465
David PriceTBSP2666
CC SabathiaNYYSP3135
Hunter PencePhiOF2832
Paul KonerkoCWS1B3641
Ryan ZimmermanWsh3B27248
Mike NapoliTexC/1B3068
Matt HollidayStLOF3289
Carlos SantanaCleC/1B25143


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 Tier2011
PlayerTeamPosAgePlayer Rater
Craig KimbrelAtlRP2327
Eric HosmerKC1B2281
Desmond JenningsTBOF25270
Pablo SandovalSF3B2598
Starlin CastroChCSS2234
Chase UtleyPhi2B33261


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 Tier2011
PlayerTeamPosAgePlayer Rater
Alex GordonKCOF2824
Matt CainSFSP2751
Jon LesterBosSP28119
Yovani GallardoMilSP2679
James ShieldsTBSP3022
Kevin YoukilisBos3B33193
Shane VictorinoPhiOF3171
Drew StorenWshRP2453
Rickie WeeksMil2B29146
Adam JonesBalOF2670
C.J. WilsonLAASP3149
Brian McCannAtlC28163
Madison BumgarnerSFSP2291
Alex RodriguezNYY3B36189
Michael YoungTex1B/3B3528
Corey HartMilOF3095
Michael MorseWsh1B/OF3042
Ian KennedyAriSP2725
John AxfordMilRP2954
Cameron MaybinSDOF2487
Asdrubal CabreraCleSS2640
Matt GarzaChCSP28133
Ben ZobristTB2B/OF3046


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 Tier2011
PlayerTeamPosAgePlayer Rater
Michael PinedaNYYSP23136
Billy ButlerKCDH2586
Jonathan PapelbonPhiRP3182
Brett LawrieTor3B22419
Daniel HudsonAriSP2592
Carl CrawfordBosOF30190
Ricky RomeroTorSP2752
Ryan MadsonCinRP31118
Matt MooreTBSP22656
Stephen StrasburgWshSP23548
Jordan ZimmermannWshSP25160
Brian WilsonSFRP30145
Mat LatosCinSP24130
Jason HeywardAtlOF22386


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 Tier2011
PlayerTeamPosAgePlayer Rater
Aramis RamirezMil3B3347
Howard KendrickLAA2B/OF2883
Nick SwisherNYYOF31128
Nick MarkakisBalOF2893
Jose ValverdeDetRP3462
Freddie FreemanAtl1B22111
Drew StubbsCinOF2776
Michael CuddyerCol1B/OF3394
J.J. PutzAriRP3560
Mark ReynoldsBal1B/3B28122
Alex AvilaDetC25109
Shaun MarcumMilSP30108
Adam LindTor1B28172
Gio GonzalezWshSP26127
Buster PoseySFC2562


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 Tier2011
PlayerTeamPosAgePlayer Rater
Joel HanrahanPitRP3073
Jeremy HellicksonTBSP24104
Lance BerkmanStL1B/OF3636
Johnny CuetoCinSP26102
Heath BellMiaRP3485
Tommy HansonAtlSP25166
Miguel MonteroAriC28137
Chris CarpenterStLSP36171
Brandon BeachyAtlSP25209
Joe MauerMinC28490


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 Tier2011
PlayerTeamPosAgePlayer Rater
J.J. HardyBalSS29113
Neftali FelizTexRP23152
Max ScherzerDetSP27243
Anibal SanchezMiaSP28181
Carlos LeeHou1B/OF35112
Jesus MonteroSeaDH22790
Logan MorrisonMiaOF24228
Dustin AckleySea2B24383
Neil WalkerPit2B26134
Paul GoldschmidtAri1B24547
Peter BourjosLAAOF25131
Chris YoungAriOF28105
Austin JacksonDetOF25161
Jason MotteStLRP29178
Ryan RobertsAri2B/3B31110
Erick AybarLAASS2877
Adam WainwrightStLSP30


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.


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