With January nearly over, we’re almost two months away from opening day and a new season of fantasy baseball. Spring training feels like it’s just around the corner when we start debating who the trendy players are and thinking we are the only people in the world who know about guys like Kyle Blanks (trendy, yet disappointing preseason sleeper from 2010). Before we start looking at the bottom of the fantasy baseball draft, lets dive in to the top.
In years past, there are always a few guys who stand above the rest when receiving that coveted overall first pick in your fantasy baseball draft. This year, there are three players who have distinguished themselves to garner such accolades. Of course, with more players worthy of being taken with the top pick, there’s more room to essentially screw up this pick completely.
The young guns: Jason Heyward, Andrew McCutchen, Giancarlo Stanton and Justin Upton. With the exception of McCutchen (anyone else think he is going too high in drafts this season?), these young players are going to be drafted in the second round and could easily wind up at the top of the first round for next season. Stanton comes in with a chip on his shoulder from the Miami Marlins’ disastrous offseason. Will he pout or will it light a fire under him to carry this team? In 501 plate appearances, he hit 37 homeruns. In a full season, could he hit 50?
The reliable: Robinson Cano, Carlos Gonzalez, Joey Votto, Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols. These players may have peaked in value, but their value is very good; just not players you would think about taking with the number-one pick. Most of them are hitting their 30s, so decline maybe in store for some. More often than not, the reliable guys in the first round either end up getting injured or they fall from grace. Of this short list, I think Votto has the opportunity to take his numbers up a bit now that he has some better OBP guys hitting in front of him.
The injury bug: Troy Tulowitzki and Evan Longoria. We keep thinking these two guys are going to wake up and return to their 2009 form, but each season since then, they have disappointed or even killed your fantasy season. What will happen if these guys put up monster seasons? We will move them back into the mid-first round next season, and then they will probably disappoint owners thereafter. (People who took these guys in 2010 and 2011 are furiously nodding their heads).
The enigma: Matt Kemp. Remember last season when Kemp said he was going to hit 50 home runs and steal 50 bases? Well he hit 29 home runs and stole nine bases. Let’s say he goes 30 HR, 20 SB, 100 runs and 100 RBI this season. That should be good for the fourth or fifth best player in the draft. But if I have the third overall pick, that elusive 50-50 season will be ringing in the back of my head.
#3. Mike Trout. Just let it be known, this kid scares the hell out of me. He easily has the ability to be #1 on this list for the next 12 seasons; but, we have only one season (a hell of a season mind you) to judge Trout. What if his numbers are not god-like? What if he slumps? What if his batting average is .290 (like it was the last month of the season) instead of .325? What about that high strikeout percentage (21.8%)? His season last year was something special, and this maybe the lowest he ever is in someone’s rankings for the next 12 seasons, but I would rather go with the next two players over Trout.
#2: Miguel Cabrera. What Cabrera brings to the table, more than anything, is consistency. It doesn’t matter if he gets DUI’s before the season or moves to a more difficult fielding position; Cabrera just brings it every season. In nine seasons, he has had 648 or more plate appearances. In those nine seasons, he has only failed to hit 30 home runs once and hit for over 40 once. In each of those seasons, he has had 100 or more RBI, and has he failed to produce 100 runs in only three seasons. Finally, only twice in those nine seasons has his batting average dipped below .320. Cabrera is money in the bank.
#1: Ryan Braun. What Cabrera doesn’t give you, however, is stolen bases. Braun is the rich man’s version of Kemp, only this year, Braun does not have a PED scandal hurting his fantasy draft value. I was higher than most on him a season ago, now I think he is a no-brainer to go #1 overall.