You know, baseball certainly has never been my forte. For the most part, I enjoy it thoroughly. The sites, sounds and smells of the ballpark on opening day are very exciting. Fantasy wise, this will be my first year following along and despite not exactly being an expert, I am looking forward to doing the research and playing along.
With that being said, I took part in my first draft of the season last night and figured I’d recap some of the rounds, just as I did with hockey. It is a 10-team, both division league and of course, I possessed the 10th pick. My team name is “I Love Griffey” because, well, I do love Ken Griffey Jr. Anyway, let’s get to the picks, shall we?
1) Team 1- Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers: Obviously can’t go wrong with this guy. Despite winning the NL MVP back in 2011, the celebration was short-lived as he was tested positive for using PEDs just weeks later. He faced a 50-game suspension, but it was eventually overruled. One year removed from a ton of controversy and Braun would surely struggle, right? Wrong. The reigning MVP exploded for 41 homers and 112 RBI last season, ranking him among the top fantasy players in the game. He’s not even 30-years old yet and makes as good a case as any to be drafted number one overall.
2) Team 2- Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels: You know him, you love him. Trout comes in at number two overall in this draft and for good reason. Last year, baseball fans saw arguably one of the greatest rookie performances in quite some time. He was the first rookie to join the 30/30 club, was runner-up for American League MVP and was an absolute stud on the defensive end. Trout has a rare combination of size, speed and power, providing fantasy owners with home runs, steals and much, much more. While it is safe to assume that he may regress from his historical inaugural campaign, Trout is easily a top three fantasy option.
3) Team 3- Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers: Cabrera , Trout’s opponent in the AL MVP race, didn’t have too shabby of a 2012 season himself, no? Not only did he win the MVP award, but also took home the league’s first Triple Crown award since 1967, making Cabrera an extremely rare talent in the game of baseball. He hit a monster 44 home runs and 139 RBI, while sporting a batting average of .330. This all came in his first season playing the third base position in five years, which isn’t the easiest transition for ball players. Cabrera goes third overall in this draft, rounding out the top three fantasy players coming into 2013.
4) Team 4- Robinson Cano, New York Yankees: Two words come to mind when thinking of Cano; safe and consistent. Cano has finished a season with a batting average over .300 four straight years and is by far the best second baseman in fantasy baseball. Yankee Stadium is very friendly to left-handed hitters, having one of the shortest porches in the entire league, which only helps Cano’s chances of hitting more home runs. However, the team’s lineup appears to lack the firepower from years before, possibly decreasing the RBI/runs opportunity for Cano. Still, he remains a top five option for drafters.
5) Team 5- Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers: Last season, Kemp appeared to be on track to deliver another dominant fantasy season. Unfortunately, hamstring issues forced him to miss 51 contests. Kemp, 28, is in his prime and his big bat should provide fantasy owners with a plethora of homers and runs batted in. He also plays in a powerhouse of a lineup that recently brought in guys like Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, who both can boost the value of the already dominant Kemp. Barring injury, Kemp will once again be among the top fantasy producers in baseball.
6) Team 6- Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates: McCutchen is probably my favorite player in baseball right now, probably because he reminds me a bit of Griffey. The 26-year old broke out last season, hitting for 31 homers and 96 RBI. Cutch hasn’t even began to hit his prime yet, which is scary, considering he has all the tools to remain a superstar in the league. Last year, he became just the fifth player in Pirate’s history to produce a 30/20 campaign. He finished the year as the fourth-highest fantasy producer and will continue to rank among the top.
7) Team 7- Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels: While many believe he doesn’t have nearly as much left in the tank, Pujols remains a top 10 fantasy option heading into 2013 regardless. Having said that, he certainly won’t be “The Machine” fans have been accustomed to seeing. The 33-year old’s home run ceiling may end up being closer to 30-35, rather than 40. A positive note is that the Angels bolstered Pujols’ supporting cast by bringing in Josh Hamilton. Expect him to post a boatload of RBI and runs, considering how talented the Halo’s lineup is.
8) Team 8- Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies: Gonzalez’s value has been decreasing over the last three seasons, seeing home run totals of 34, 26, 22 to go along with RBI totals of 117, 92 and 85. Three straight seasons in which he has regressed is a bit alarming, but he is still a top 10 guy. Injuries have slowed Car-Go down a bit, missing 79 games over the past three years. He still plays at Coors Field, however, which certainly helps his cause. Gonzalez has a career OPS of 1.054 in his home stadium, which is 328 points higher than everywhere else. Plus, he is still just 27-years old and is extremely athletic, making him very relevant in fantasy.
9) Team 9- Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds: Injuries and struggles on the diamond really hurt Votto’s fantasy value last season. He missed 51 games, hitting just 14 homers and 56 RBI in the process. Knee injuries certainly hindered his MVP form but even when he was on the field, he struggled at times. He didn’t seem to possess the power that owners were used to seeing from the first baseman and saw a fly ball rate of 33 percent. The rest during the offseason should have done Votto well and the fact that he plays in one of the more hitter friendly ballparks in the league, not to mention being an elite power hitter, he should get back on track in 2013.
10) I Love Griffey- Prince Fielder, Detroit Tigers: With the 10th and final pick of the first round, I fully expected to have Fielder. One of the game’s elite power hitters, Fielder is coming off a 30-homer, 108-RBI campaign in which he also posted a batting average of .313 (career high). After a successful first stint with the Tigers, Fielder has now hit 30 or more home runs in every season since 2007, making him one of the best home run hitters in the game today. Batting in the heart of a very good lineup including Cabrera, I like Fielder’s chances of having an even better sophomore campaign with Detroit.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.