2012 Fantasy Baseball: Top 10 Players By Position

Matt Riggleman and I have been playing in the same fantasy baseball league over the past 4 seasons. Between us, we have won the league all 4 years.

The league is an 8×8 rotisserie ESPN league with 16 teams, 22 roster spots, along with 2 DL slots. Keep in mind, with ESPN leagues, a player needs to play at least 20 games at a position to have that position eligibility.

For the very first time, we decided to share our top 10 fantasy opinions by position, to help any and all who take the time to read up.

Hitting Categories: Runs (R), Doubles (2B), Triples (3B), Home Runs (HR), Runs Batted In (RBI), Stolen Bases (SB), Strikeouts (K), and On-Base Percentage (OBP)

Top 10 – Catchers
Matt Riggleman Matt Horn
1 Mike Napoli Mike Napoli
2 Brian McCann Brian McCann
3 Matt Wieters Carlos Santana
4 Carlos Santana Miguel Montero
5 Miguel Montero Matt Wieters
6 Joe Mauer Buster Posey
7 Buster Posey Joe Mauer
8 Yadier Molina Alex Avila
9 Alex Avila Yadier Molina
10 Russell Martin J.P. Arencibia

Riggleman: Catcher for me is a total upside play. I built this list conceding that I’ll never pay what it takes to get Napoli or McCann, but Wieters and co. may fall low enough. Wieters beats Santana because I still believe he’s “Mauer with Power.” Montero has been quietly great for awhile and the DBacks are better. Mauer can win a batting title. Posey could be the best on here, but he’s injured. Molina and Martin are sure things, and Avila has too much upside to leave out of the top 10. Catcher can’t break you…it can only make you.

Horn: Catcher is notoriously crappy, but I feel it’s deeper this year. Napoli is capable of 30 jacks meaning he tops the list, K’s or not, power plays. McCann, Santana, and Montero- these guys just hit: power, RBI and average available here. Posey, and Mauer are looking to bounce back after injuries. Arencibia could push 25 homers.

Top 10 – First Basemen
Matt Riggleman Matt Horn
1 Miguel Cabrera Miguel Cabrera
2 Albert Pujols Albert Pujols
3 Joey Votto Adrian Gonzalez
4 Adrian Gonzalez Joey Votto
5 Prince Fielder Prince Fielder
6 Mark Teixeira Mark Teixeira
7 Paul Konerko Eric Hosmer
8 Eric Hosmer Paul Konerko
9 Michael Morse Lance Berkman
10 Lance Berkman Kendrys Morales

This list was pretty much a no-brainer. Cabrera beats Pujols because of 3B elig., Votto gets on base more than AGon, Fielder is just better fantasy-wise than Tex, Konerko is money but old.  Hosmer has had ridiculous OBP since he was in diapers and is only going to get better. Michael Morse seems like an upside play and the Nationals are better than people give them credit for, and Berkman historically has a great OBP and he seems to have at least another good year in the tank.

Cabrera is 28, Pujols is 32 – splitting hairs with those two. After a year of seeing AL pitching, A-Gon will take everyone yard- 40 homers min along with all the other good stuff. Teixeira’s average and K’s are worrisome but still has power to approach 40 HR. Hosmer could be a tad high on my list, but don’t sleep on 25HR, 100RBI, 20SB with great OBP. The last three should be good for at least 30 and 90 barring a Morales set back.

Top 10 – Second Basemen
Matt Riggleman Matt Horn
1 Robinson Cano Robinson Cano
2 Ian Kinsler Dustin Pedroia
3 Dustin Pedroia Ian Kinsler
4 Dan Uggla Rickie Weeks
5 Ben Zobrist Dan Uggla
6 Brandon Phillips Brandon Phillips
7 Howie Kendrick Ben Zobrist
8 Chase Utley Dustin Ackley
9 Rickie Weeks Neil Walker
10 Dustin Ackley Chase Utley

I feel like 2B is kind of a throwaway position this year – there’s a pile of holy guys – aka guys with big gaps in their games. Cano is clearly the best, Kinsler and Pedroia are a coin flip, Uggla will hit more homers than any of them, Zobrist has versatility, Phillips is consistent, Kendrick is upside, Utley’s not done yet, Weeks is a bargain at 9 and Ackley gets on.

Cano does everything except steal. Pedroia can steal, just can’t match Cano’s power. Kinsler, Weeks, and Uggla –  great numbers outside of average, also beware of fatal K rate. Phillips and Zorilla seem to be solid and safe. I’m scared of Utley’s potential health problems and age, or I would have him above Ackley and Walker.

Top 10 – Third Basemen
Matt Riggleman Matt Horn
1 Jose Bautista Jose Bautista
2 Evan Longoria Evan Longoria
3 Adrian Beltre Adrian Beltre
4 David Wright Ryan Zimmerman
5 Kevin Youkilis David Wright
6 Ryan Zimmerman Aramis Ramirez
7 Pablo Sandoval Kevin Youkilis
8 Alex Rodriguez Alex Rodriguez
9 Brett Lawrie Brett Lawrie
10 Aramis Ramirez Pablo Sandoval

Gets tough after Longo, but Beltre has been great for a couple years. Wright has to be great one of these years, Youk gets on more than Zim and gets hurt less often, Sandoval has low OBP but rakes, A Rod has a great year left in him, Lawrie is safer at 9 but is too high for me normally, and Aram is proven with moderate safety.

JoeyBats19 – can’t stop, won’t stop! I think Beltre is safer than Longo, but his OBP and average  are the same because he can’t walk, Longo can. Zimmerman is my pick for breakout season, staying healthy and showing he is a stud. Wright’s is good all around, not crazy about his increasing k’s. Ramirez, Youk, and A-Rod are typically good when healthy over the past few years. Lawrie is a potential huge power source.

Top 10 – Shortstops
Matt Riggleman Matt Horn
1 Troy Tulowitzki Troy Tulowitzki
2 Hanley Ramirez Jose Reyes
3 Jose Reyes Hanley Ramirez
4 Starlin Castro Starlin Castro
5 Elvis Andrus Asdrubal Cabrera
6 Asdrubal Cabrera Jimmy Rollins
7 Alexei Ramirez Elvis Andrus
8 Jimmy Rollins Alexei Ramirez
9 Derek Jeter J.J. Hardy
10 J.J. Hardy Dee Gordon

SS is always kind of a throwaway position too. I don’t like 11 much better than I like 25. Tulo, Ramirez, Reyes is a given. I like Castro over Andrus because Castro has demonstrated the ability to hit for some power and a better average. Cabrera had a great year, but I just don’t buy it entirely. Alexi Ramirez is consistently undervalued, Rollins is still good, Jeter will score 100 with decent avg., and Hardy could hit 30 bombs.

Tulo is a beast. Reyes over Hanley until Hanley proves he isn’t going to be a baby about the position switch, also Reyes led the league in triples last season. Castro, Cabrera, and Rollins each could hit 15 jacks with some nice peripherals. Andrus is SB’s and R’s all the way. Dee Gordon is my sleeper pick – Super cheap 50 steals while hitting 300.

Top 10 – Outfielders
Matt Riggleman Matt Horn
1 Matt Kemp Matt Kemp
2 Jose Bautista Jose Bautista
3 Ryan Braun Ryan Braun
4 Carlos Gonzalez Carlos Gonzalez
5 Justin Upton Justin Upton
6 Curtis Granderson Curtis Granderson
7 Nelson Cruz Andrew McCutchen
8 Mike Stanton Matt Holliday
9 Andrew McCutchen Hunter Pence
10 Jacoby Ellsbury Mike Stanton

I think OF is actually the position I most want to pick up in the 1st round. The top 5 guys are no brainers and could be put in almost any order. My 2nd 5 is weighted mainly by my confidence in their ability to put up power numbers without screwing you in other ways. Granderson seems to have figured it out. Cruz hits 30 while missing 40 games, Stanton is probably the most likely guy not named Bautista to hit 40 homers, McCutchen is more well rounded than Ellsbury and I believe more in his power, Ellsbury did it last year, but I’m not a full believer.

1-6 are the same as Rigg, and probably the same for everyone else too. I believe everyone of those guys outside of Granderson can duplicate their season from a year ago, if not take it up a notch (Kemp 50-50?). You better believe Braun is out to have the season of his life. Pujols is gone, Matt Holliday is now the man and he will show it. Stanton only at 10 due to an unknown ballpark and his strikeouts.

Pitching Catrgories: Quality Starts (QS), Complete Games (CG), Saves (SV), Holds (HLD), Home Runs Allowed (HR), Strikeouts (K), Earned Run Average (ERA), and Walk/Hits Per Inning (WHIP)

Top 10 – Starting Pitchers
Matt Riggleman Matt Horn
1 Roy Halladay Roy Halladay
2 Justin Verlander Cliff Lee
3 Felix Hernandez Felix Hernandez
4 Cliff Lee Justin Verlander
5 Clayton Kershaw Clayton Kershaw
6 Tim Lincecum C.C. Sabathia
7 Cole Hamels Cole Hamels
8 Zack Greinke Tim Lincecum
9 C.C. Sabathia Jered Weaver
10 Dan Haren David Price

Halladay is money in the bank for long games, sweet ERA & WHIP,  respectable K’s and the NL East is even worse than last year. Verlander will get more K’s and does have a stack of easy division rivals, but Halladay has just done it longer. Hernandez boosted Lee and Kershaw for me because he’s logged tons of innings before and tends to go complete, there’s actually still upside there too. For Lee, just see Halladay’s write-up, only Halladay is done it longer. Kershaw will have the most Ks of anyone on this list, but just because of his age, I can’t bank on all the innings. Could easily be the best overall pitcher at the end of the year though. Lincecum is great in a weak division. Hamels is just another Philly Ace. Greinke gets to mow Pirates in a contract year. Sabathia and Haren are just ace innings eaters who know how to get it done.

The complete game dominance is why my top 4 are who they are. All these guys have great stuff. They will all get their numbers by the end of the season. I believe all of these guys are an every start type of pitcher. If you are going to spend a pick to get one of these guys, you can’t afford to sit them. Rigg will disagree with that, but it’s true. Picking David Price then not playing him against the Yankees and Red Sox might seem smart, but you lose the value for picking him that high. Taking a guy lower in the draft can get you Price minus 7 starts type of numbers. These guys aren’t great because they only play against Houston Astro type talent.

Top 10 – Relief Pitchers
Matt Riggleman Matt Horn
1 Jonathan Papelbon Craig Kimbrel
2 Drew Storen John Axford
3 Craig Kimbrel Ryan Madson
4 Mariano Rivera Brian Wilson
5 John Axford Sergio Santos
6 Joakim Soria Mariano Rivera
7 Huston Street Drew Storen
8 Jordan Walden Kenley Jansen
9 Jason Motte Huston Street
10 Heath Bell Jose Valverde

Everybody loves to hate Papelbon – the contract, the attitude, the old team, the fact that he’s been kinda’ Burrellized by not being the insanity guy everybody thought he would be – but the NL East gets to mow down the Mets, the just OK Marlins, the punchless Braves O, plus Papelbon is a weird dichotomy – a guy people love to hate, but still has a cool name discount. I speculate he’ll slip in drafts more than he should, but he’ll still dominate and you’ll still be able to trade him easy. Ks, ERA and WHIP.I chose Storen over Kimbrel because Kimbrel got used a buttload last year, but both get to mow in the East. Even as a Phillies fan, I think their O is overrated. Rivera is Rivera, Axford is good and young but slightly tougher division than Storen and Kimbrel, Soria can’t be as bad as last year and the Royals are getting better, Street is better than Bell ever was, and though an injury guy, should rock in the light hitting, big parked NL West. Walden and Motte are fireballers who I think’ll take the next step..and I think Bell, though overrated and older, will love the NL East. I avoided going Setup men in my top 10 simply because Saves are always sexier and easier to trade..most closers are better, and the setup men I’d even consider are overworked or injury-prone.

Kimbrel here is no brainer to me. Yes, he petered out at the end of last season throwing a ton of innings, but what rookie pitcher doesn’t hit a wall late in the year? He’s young, and he’ll come back strong. Axford and Madson to me are like the same guy, Madson getting out of homer friendly Citizens Bank is a bonus. Brian Wilson dropped off last year, probably because of the extra innings that come with winning the World Series. Kenley Jansen is the odds on favorite to become the closer even though he won’t start season as one – striking out heads like he does will get people’s attention. Huston Street now in Petco instead of Coors, like taking candy from a baby.

Here are some nice odds and ends/predictions for the upcoming 2012 fantasy baseball season. Enjoy!

Best Value Play – Rookie – A Rookie being someone without a full season under their belt

Riggleman: Eric Hosmer – I believe in the Hosmer. I think he has legitimate Votto upside, and it could show up now. In a league that relies on guys getting on base, he doesn’t hurt you.

Horn: Desmond Jennings – Guy is all around good. The Rays are banking on Jennings to fill the void that Carl Crawford left when he went to Boston. Don’t be surprised when he has those Crawford-Rays-esque numbers.

Best Value Play – Hitter

Riggleman: Brendan Boesch – He didn’t set the world on fire last year, but he showed some power. Nobody in baseball is going to get better pitches to hit in the 2 hole.

Horn: Mark Trumbo – Currently ranked 226. A 30 homer guy that late, wow! Obvious qualm here is the potential to not get on the field. The Angels are working him out at 3rd to remedy that. With hitters like Pujols, Morales, and Hunter around him, he will see a juicy fastball now often than those guys.

Best Value Play – Pitcher

Riggleman: Eric Bedard – At a prerank of 328, he could suck and it wouldn’t matter…but this is a top 25 pitcher in the NL when he decides to stay out of the hospital bed. Dude has never been bad when he pitches, and now he gets a gimme’ every 9 batters.

Horn: Adam Wainwright – After missing the entire 2011 season due to TJS. He is preranked 99 overall. Normally would be right around the Lincecum(32)/Hamles(39) range if not higher. AKA Big time ace available 60 or so picks later, I like it.

Guys that get drafted too damn high

Riggleman: Brett Lawrie – At 46..there is no meat on the bone here at all. This assumes he’s more valuable than Jay Bruce, Craig Kimbrel, Paul Konerko and David Price. 3B isn’t THAT shallow either. Double the rank and I’ll think about it.

Horn: I 100% agree with Rigg on Brett Lawrie.

Dude everybody still believes in and you’ll end up overpaying for if you want him

Riggleman: Jason Heyward – Dude’s young, he was legitimately injured, he’s in great shape, he’s working with a new hitting coach all the Braves love. 109 on ESPN and everyone knows that’s a bargain. Like Hosmer, he’s been getting on base since the 80s. Pretty safe bet lots of people will be paying more than 109 for him.

Dude who comes out of nowhere this year and causes the owner that grabs him to win

Riggleman: Mat Gamel – Just not ready to slap quad A on this guy just yet, and just like Boesch in Detroit – nobody in baseball is going to get a bigger chance to do well. Dude’s raked forever outside of the majors. This year, it all comes together, and you can get him in later rounds.

Horn: Every year there is at least one hitter and/or one pitcher that reshapes the fantasy landscape. 2008 I picked up Cliff Lee after two starts and reaped the benefit of his Cy Young award winning season. Jose Bautista in 2010 was the other HUGE breakout over the past 4 years too leave a lasting impression. Neither were prospects, both were struggling mightily before those seasons to keep their career on track. So with that pattern in mind, my shot in the dark pick is James Loney.

Dude everyone will be afraid of but you can clean up on

Riggleman: Adam Dunn – Dude’s going deep for being so damn bad. Funny thing about statistics is they have a tendency to go back to the norm. And, the norm is good..especially at 252.

Horn: Alex Rios/Vernon Wells – The old Blue Jays outfield. Both have been under performing for so long with little glimpses of fantasy greatness. Late in the draft, don’t aviod, take the flyer on these two.

Dude I wouldn’t touch with a 10 ft. pole (Bad Touch)

Riggleman: Stephen Strasburg at 60. Innings cap scares the crap out of me..and sexy name value will get him picked in the 50s. Don’t get railroaded.

Horn: Pedro Alverez – I still think it is too early to say this guy is a total bust, but avoid at all cost until he shows some sign of life! Or at least until he buys some new bats…

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