1) I love Griffey- Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies: Injuries have plagued the Rockies’ shortstop recently. Tulowitzki played a lousy 47 games last season, explaining his dismal stat line of eight home runs and 27 RBI. It’s a bit of a high risk/high reward to draft Tulo this early, but when healthy, he is the best shortstop in fantasy baseball. The position isn’t necessarily deep in the first place, making Tulowitzki even more valuable. He appears to be good to go for opening day and barring injury. Tulo could be in store for a monumental bounceback year.
2) Team 9- Justin Upton, Atlanta Braves: The transition to the Braves organization doesn’t seem to be impacting Upton’s play too much, as he is off to a hot start this spring. He is hitting .333 with two homers and five RBI through eight games in Spring Training. Joining him will be his older brother B.J., forming a speedy, athletic outfield in Atlanta. Many believe that Upton was a bit disappointing last season, but the 25-year old ranked second in the National League in runs (107) and picked his game up towards the end of 2012. Upton hasn’t even begun to hit his prime yet and possesses a boatload of potential.
3) Team 8- Justin Verlanders, Detroit Tigers: Man, the Tigers are a fantasy powerhouse, aren’t they? Arguably the best pitcher in all of baseball, Verlander is the definition of a workhorse. Over the past five seasons, Verlander has started a whopping 168 games. Last season in particular, he pitched a ridiculous 238.1 innings, but despite the hefty usage, Verlander was an absolute stud. Let’s see, he ranked first in the AL in complete games (6), first in strikeouts (239), and second in ERA (2.64). Need I say more? The guy is an absolute ace and is highly regarded as the number one pitcher in fantasy baseball.
4) Team 7- Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers: This owner may have been targeting Verlander, but I’m sure he isn’t too upset with landing Kershaw. He sees Verlander’s impressive 2012 numbers and raised him a number one NL ranking in both ERA (2.53) and WHIP (1.02). Kershaw has also showed durability, starting at least 30 contests in each of the last four seasons. Run support is crucial to a pitcher’s success and with new acquisitions to an already powerful lineup, that shouldn’t be a problem for the Dodgers. Don’t be surprised if Kershaw finishes 2013 as the number one fantasy pitcher.
5) Team 6- Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins: Stanton is without a doubt a rising star in baseball today. He is coming off his best season as a pro, posting 37 home runs, which was only four fewer than the league leader. Stanton also batted in 86 runs. If he hadn’t missed 39 contests due to injury, his numbers would have easily been top notch. Just 23-years of age, Stanton possesses size, standing at 6’5″, 248 pounds, providing fantasy owners the chance of a big bomb at any given plate appearance. The right fielder won’t get you many steals, however, having only 16 in his three-year career. He also doesn’t have the ideal supporting cast, making him less of a guarantee to post a plethora of runs. Still, he is an emerging star and should post the numbers in 2013.
6) Team 5- Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants: Posey is a very intriguing fantasy option for owners, as the 25-year old is multi-positional. He is a catcher first, but Posey also played 29 games at first base last season. An obvious choice for the league’s Comeback Player of the Year, Posey posted an incredible 24 homers and belted 103 RBI. He also ranked first in the entire NL in batting average (.336), making him the first catcher in 13 years to post a batting average of at least .330, 20 homers and 100 runs batted in. We are seeing a rare talent behind the plate and he is without a doubt a top 20 guy in fantasy leagues.
7) Team 4- David Wright, New York Mets: Over the winter, the Mets signed Wright to an eight-year, $138 million extension and it was well deserved. Wright, the face of the franchise, belted 21 homers and 93 RBI a season ago, while batting an impressive .306. While Wright isn’t a safe bet for a ton of homers (just 64 over the last three seasons) and lacks the lineup protection around him, Wright is still easily a top three fantasy third baseman and needs to be drafted relatively high on draft day.
8) Team 3- Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers: Speaking of third baseman, Beltre certainly isn’t too bad either. He is coming off a monster 2012 campaign in which he batted .321 (3rd in AL), slugged 36 home runs (6th in AL) and 102 RBI. The departure of power hitter Josh Hamilton obviously doesn’t help his fantasy appeal, but Beltre is still a strong candidate for 25-30 homers and a batting average of .290. The 33-year old may be aging but is still among the top fantasy third basemen.
9) Team 2- Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals: One of the biggest reasons the Nationals were so successful last season was due to the arm of young Strasburg. The 24-year old won 15 games in 2012, posting an ERA of 3.16 and striking out 197 batters. He still put up terrific numbers, despite being shut down in September. Don’t expect that to happen in 2013, as Strasburg’s Tommy John surgery is long gone and he certainly has the upside to be one of the best pitchers in baseball.
10) Team 1- Josh Hamilton, Los Angeles Angels: Hamilton’s days in Texas are finished, as the 31-year old signed with division rival LA during the offseason. Many fantasy owners are a bit uncomfortable with the fact that Hamilton won’t be hitting in hitter friendly Rangers Ballpark, but there is so much to love about him. First off, he is a proven commodity. Hamilton is an MVP winner, Silver Slugger award winner and is coming off an extremely productive 2012 campaign, hitting 43 home runs and 128 RBI. Not to mention he will be in the same lineup as guys like Mike Trout and Albert Pujols. Pretty good company, wouldn’t you say? Many are also concerned that he is aging and injuries are certainly no stranger to him, but Hamilton’s power and skill make him a viable second-third round draft pick.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.