Fantasy Baseball Preview Part 1-Ranking the Studs

If you are like us Fantasy Sports comes ahead of many things in our life.  No greater joy is to be had than that of winning a league amongst friends, coworkers or complete strangers.   The decision to legalize daily fantasy gaming in New York and other states has only fueled the fire for junkies like us.  As with most great things they can become horrible things if you are not careful and fantasy sports is no exception.  Fantasy baseball is very easy to screw up so I am here to guide you. The best way to screw up is to blow your first few picks with overhyped young players or over the hill veterans.  Use these rankings as gospel so you do not embarrass yourself come draft night.

Catchers- Selecting a catcher in the early rounds is a dangerous proposition for even the most chiseled fantasy players.  The position is a high injury risk and has built in off days every week no matter the player.  The advantage to being daring and going with a top guy is the huge difference in production and consistency between the top and middle players.

  1. Buster Posey- Buster Posey is probably the only catcher I would feel comfortable drafting in the top 4 rounds.  Reason being is Posey is one of the few catchers who is rarely out of the lineup due to his ability to play first base also.  The other key for Posey is he is the Giants best offensive player which is rare for a catcher this day and age so he is in a prime spot in the lineup to be productive.
  2. Gary Sanchez- Sanchez set the baseball world on fire last year and some could say that kind of production is impossible to repeat.  It probably is, but hitting 20 hrs in 201 at bats takes talent and Sanchez has always been regarded as a top prospect at the position so this did not come out of left field.  I rank Sanchez second due to the fact he is going to be batting third for the Yankees in a hitters ballpark and the Yankess can not afford to take him out of the lineup to often.
  3.   Jonathan Lucroy-  Moving to Texas was kind for Lucroy but I rank him behind the top 2 players by a pretty wide margin due to the fact at the age of 31 it is hard for me to believe his massive production spike is sustainable.  Still a great catcher but his upside is limited batting 6th in the Rangers lineup so I can not justify reaching for him in drafts.
  4. Evan Gattis- Catcher eligible but not a full time catcher gives Gattis his value along with the fact he is a good bet to lead the position in home runs.
  5. J.T Realmuto-  The only catcher who will contribute in the steals department and at the age 26 it is reasonable to believe he will be able to add some pop to his game.  You will not have to spend big to obtain Realmuto so his value is perfect at this position.

First Base-  A big time production position but one to me is not quite as deep as it has been in years past. Also some of the top guys are getting up there in age so you want to be careful here when spending a first or second round pick.

  1. Paul Goldschmidt- Does it all and actually had a slightly down year for his standards. I expect bigger numbers for Goldscmidt this season with a solid lineup around him and the return of A.J Pollack. Feel free to use a top 5 pick here.
  2. Freddie Freeman-  Freeman’s power finally came out last season to the tune of 34 home runs. With the Braves lineup being better and the new ballpark being friendly to lefties I expect Freeman to have a huge season.
  3. Anthony Rizzo- Great player on a great team who also happens to be only 27 years old. I could see him posting bigger numbers than he already has in the power department.
  4. Miguel Cabrera-  Father time is undefeated but the greatest hitter of my generation is still worth a high pick.  The reason I have Miguel below the other guys on this list is not because I do not think he will put elite numbers when playing, it is because I do not think he will be playing as much in 2017.  Why do I think this ? Number one at 34 years old it is inevitable even though the Tigers need him in the lineup everyday he will need to sit out some games due to fact he has to play the field with Victor Martinez clogging up the DH Spot on a daily basis. The other reason is he is a guy that screams injury risk to me. He missed a large chunk of 2015 with a calve injury and being a larger guy in his mid thirties pulls and strains become more likely and the recovery time is longer.  I would not use a first round pick on him but if he slips to round 2 in your draft then jump all over him.
  5. Joey Votto-Votto to me this year is a guy who can ruin your season.  To get him you most likely are using a top 10 pick and to me it is way to dangerous. Votto is someone to me who has been amazing his entire life in fantasy and has always got the job done, however this year I have a few problems with him.  These are problems as a second or third round pick you are not worried about but for top 10 pick you need to really analyze.  Nothing kills a season quicker than a injured or under performing first round pick.  Here is my problems with Votto this season in terms of where you have to draft him.  Number 1 he is 33 years old and unlike Miguel Cabrera, Votto struggled for the first time in his life at the plate for a extended period of time. He recovered for a big year but that is worrisome to me at his age. The second problem is the Reds are a gutted team and I do not see Votto scoring his usual 100 plus runs with this lineup behind him.  The overall lineup also hurts Votto big time.  He is going to walk a ton because that is what he does but even more so this year because there is zero reason to pitch to him this season.  This is going to hurt his already average power numbers for a first baseman.  I also think Votto’s average will come down due to even less pitches to hit and a very high BABIP last season averaging out.  Overall I do not hate the player here I just hate his situation and his average draft position.

Second Base-  This used to be a very shallow offensive position but has plenty of talent now and useful fantasy options.

  1. Jose Altuve- Top 5 pick for me as he contributes in every category, has a perfect situation, and is really just entering his prime.
  2. Robinson Cano- Cano’s age is getting up there but he put together one of his best season of his career last year.  The Mariners have the makings of a great lineup and Cano should have a few more years of top level production in him.  Third round is where I would look for him in my draft.
  3. Rougned Odor- 23 years old and has already shown massive power numbers for a second baseman.  The great part is he has parts of his game he can get even better in specifically his 296 on base percentage. If he gets that number up even to league average you are looking at a 275 avg, 100 plus runs, 25 plus home runs 100 plus rbis and 20 steals. That is top level production at any position.
  4. Daniel Murphy- I see a regression in Murphy’s power numbers and average.  Pitchers will adjust to his new found power and I think he will revert back to his 15 home run level instead of 25.  Murphy will still put up stellar numbers but last year was his ceiling at the age of 32 and I think a regression is likely.
  5. Dee Gordon- Gordon is the lead off hitter in a very potent lineup and is a good bet to lead the league in steals.  Steals are much harder to come by than power throughout the game right now so that is why i put him above some more popular second base targets like Brian Dozier, Ian Kinsler, and Jason Kipnis.

Third Base-Maybe the most top heavy position in the game right now so it would be wise to use top pick on one of the top guys at third this season.

  1. Nolan Arrendo-Back to back 40 home run and 130 rbi seasons all while hitting close to 300 and scoring 100 runs.  If that is not sweet enough he is 26 and plays half his games in Coors. Legit shot at 50 home runs and 140 rbis. Anywhere picks 2-6 he is in the conversation.
  2. Kris Bryant-National League MVP at 25 years old and could put up even better numbers. Looks good to me anywhere after pick 6.
  3. Manny Machado- big time talent in a good lineup and I think the last 2 season we have seen Machado’s floor with the best yet to come. Back end of the first round sounds like the right spot to land one of baseballs young stars.
  4. Josh Donaldson-Fantasy monster since he came over to the Blue Jays but I feel safer with the guys in front of him this season due to their age and upside compared to Donaldson.  The Blue Jays Lineup took a big hit losing Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Batista is another year older so that could hurt Donaldson’s elite run scoring ability.  He will still put up huge numbers so late first round very early second round is where I would target Donaldson
  5. Jose Ramirez-Breakout season for Ramirez last year at the age of 24.  The Indians have a great lineup and I see no reason why Ramirez who will bat leadoff for the tribe should not continue to put up winning fantasy numbers at third.  His speed sets him apart from other third baseman and the potential of 300 avg, 100 runs, 15 hrs and 30 steals puts him ahead of some of the other options at the position for me.

Shortstop-Ton of great young shortstops in the game right now and you can potentially wait on this position this year to fill the spot unlike years past.

  1. Carlos Correa- To me Correa tops Seager due to the fact I think he will show much more power this season and is in a better situation with his home ballpark and lineup. Other than that it is a toss up between the 2.
  2. Corey Seager- Fills the stat sheet and will only get better if he is your shortstop you are doing well.
  3. Xander Bogaerts-  Last season was Bogaert’s floor to me and is 1c to the top 2 guys.
  4. Francisco Lindor-Line drive hitter who could steal more bases as he learns the pro game. Ranks slightly behind the other guys because I think he is a notch below in the power department.
  5. Jonathan Villar-  led the league in steals with 62 and tacked on 19 home runs for good measure.  If this group of shortstops was not so star studded and his team was a little better his game would have him going early in round 2.

Outfield- This is where the Fantasy God’s generally live and this season should be no exception.  Outfield is deep as always and features 5 of the top 15 fantasy players in the game to me so no need to get cute here if you are in position to take any of these guys in the first 2 rounds feel free.

  1. Mike Trout- No words are needed if you get the first pick do not think
  2. Mookie Betts- This guy kills it in every category and the only difference between him and Trout in value to me right now is Trout has done it longer.  Would be wise using the number 2 pick in your draft on this guy.
  3. Bryce Harper-  No one seems to like this guy on a personal level besides National fans but there is no denying his generational talent. Do not be scared by his down year last year as he is simply to good to not put up monster numbers.  Consider him strongly picks 3-6 and do not let him get past the 7th pick in any format.
  4. Charlie Blackmon- Leading off in Coors field with the best RBi man in baseball can lead to leading the league in runs scored not to mention a legit 30 and 30 threat while hitting over 300. I really like him at the end of the first round.
  5. Trea Turner-  Lets put it this way, this season will be your last chance to draft Trea Turner outside of the top 5 picks, so in round 2 you draft him and enjoy the ride.

Starting Pitching-  When to select your Ace is a age old question in fantasy baseball and for me I would rather wait then spend a top 5 pick on Clayton Kershaw.  To much injury risk to take the leap but here are your top options if you chose this route.

  1. Clayton Kershaw-  Your going have to spend a early first round pick to get him and if you do you pray his back issue is behind him.  If it is he warrants the pick, if not you will be preparing for next season by June.
  2. Noah Syndergaard-  This guys raw stuff is the best in the game and the only thing holding him back would be injury and high pitch counts.  Other than that he can easily win the CY Young and lead the league in K’s
  3. Max Scherzer-  I rank him behind the top 2 guys only because of his age and the fact his home run rate seems to keep increasing.  I could see some rough outings for Scherzer that will raise his era and whip but when he is on his game he is as good as it gets for a fantasy Ace
  4. Madison Bumgarner-  It is hard to believe this guy is only 27 years old and he is fully capable of winning 20 plus games with a sub 2.50 era and sub 1 whip. He is Mr. reliable with the possibility of even better numbers than he has typically posted.
  5. Chris Sale- Change of scenery will not help anyone more in my opinion.  This guy is a strikeout machine and won 17 games on an awful team.  He is the type of guy people are sleeping on and do not be surprized if he is atop the AL Cy Young voting this season

Relief Pitching-  Much like defense in fantasy football we all know we need one and are confused when to take the plunge for a great one.  I am always on the side of waiting out the reliever market out but these are going to be your most steady guys.

  1. Kenley Jansen- Second best stuff of any reliever and on a team that will play close games.  No one has been more consistent out of the pen than this guy.
  2. Aroldis Chapman- Best stuff of any reliever but huge work load last year may take a toll and the Yankees may not have many games to save. Still to good to rank any lower.
  3. Zach Britton- I have a hard time understanding how anyone hits this guy and they pretty much don’t. Orioles are good so plenty of games to close out and strong peripheral numbers make him top of the line.
  4. Mark Melancon- Great numbers and joining the Giants will not hurt his save chances at all.  No competition for saves either make him a front line closer.
  5. Jeurys Familia- People will be scared by his pending suspension but honestly this guy had a average season last year and saved 51 games.  The Mets are built to play close games and Familia should have more than enough time to save 40 plus games even if he gets a 30 game suspension like Aroldis Chapman did last season.  He has the stuff to lower his ERA, WHIP, and raise his strikeout totals and if he does he could be fantasy’s most valuable closer this season due to the fact his average draft position is bound to take a big hit.  Need proof of how dominate this guy can be ? Watch the World Baseball Classic where he has thrown 2.1 perfect earnings with 4 k’s and saved the game for the Dominican Republic vs Team USA where he was throwing 100 mph and struck out Ian Kinsler to end the game on a 99 MPH sinker.  Skip the other guys ranked above him and below the top 4, take Addison Reed late for insurance and you will be on your way.

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