1) Team 1- Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays: Probably the premiere power hitter in all of baseball, Bautista is coming off an unfortunate wrist injury from back in July. Bautista believes that he is fully healed and he may be right. The 32-year old slugger has played in six of the team’s eight exhibition games this Spring. As long as he is perfectly healthy, Bautista gives fantasy owners the ability to produce home runs at will. Mix that with the improving lineup around him, and I like Bautista’s chances of hitting around 35 homers and 100+ RBI.
2) Team 2- Hanley Ramirez, Los Angeles Dodgers: Ramirez had the opportunity to play for two teams during the 2012 season. After playing 93 games with the Marlins, Ramirez was traded to the Dodgers, where he saw his batting average climb from .246 to .271. Despite seeing his numbers significantly decline over the past few seasons, Ramirez still holds great value in fantasy leagues, considering his dual eligibility allows him to play multiple positions (3B/SS).
3) Team 3- Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays: It was a bit of a lost 2012 campaign for the Rays’ third baseman, as Longoria only suited up for a lousy 74 games. Injuries are beginning to become a familiar sight for Longoria owners. He has landed on the DL three times throughout his career and has missed almost 200 games since being called up to the big leagues. However, there is no denying the skill-set that he provides at the third base position. When he’s healthy, he’s great, belting in over 100 RBI and scoring 75 runs during the two seasons he played in at least 150 games. While he is no longer a top 10 option, Longoria still belongs in the top 25, at least.
4) Team 4- Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners: There is no denying that King Felix is easily one of the best pitchers in all of baseball. Seattle understands that after providing their ace with a 7-year, $175 million contract extension. Now if only the team could provide him with some run support. Over the past three seasons, Hernandez has been pitching like a Cy Young candidate, but the wins haven’t been there (just 40 during that span). The Mariners have only presented their pitcher with 3.50 runs of support per contest over those three years, which is a league-low. Despite the lack of offense in Seattle, King Felix is as durable as it gets on the mound and is easily a top five fantasy pitcher.
5) Team 5- Jose Reyes, Toronto Blue Jays: Speed is such an important aspect of fantasy baseball and Reyes has a ton of it. He has stolen 30 or more bases in the past three seasons and despite hamstring issues in the past, the speed is still there. Reyes has also scored at least 80 runs during that span, including 101 during the 2011 season. With a revamped lineup in Toronto, Reyes will have a terrific opportunity to get on base often, which will lead to a plethora of steals and runs for fantasy owners.
6) Team 6- David Price, Tampa Bay Rays: Price wasn’t bad last year, no? I mean, if you consider 20 wins, 205 strikeouts and oh, an AL Cy Young Award good, then sure. The combination of a high strikeout, ground ball-enforcer makes Price an elite fantasy pitcher. One of the more impressive aspects of his career-best 2012 season is the fact that he did it in one of the more competitive divisions in baseball. But, with the Red Sox and Yankees progressing a bit, there is no reason to believe that Price won’t succeed again. The scary part about Price? At 27 years old, he is just hitting his prime…
7) Team 7- Ian Kinsler, Texas Rangers: In order to be relevant in fantasy land, players have to be able to step up to the plate. Duh… Well, Kinsler does just that. Over the past two seasons, Kinsler has totaled 1,275 at bats, the most in baseball over that span. He has also amassed 100 runs and 20 stolen bases over that course of time, making him a top notch fantasy second baseman. The position isn’t necessarily deep, so I like Kinsler here in the third round.
8) Team 8- Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox: Pedroia didn’t exactly have the best 2012 season, but a few minor injuries hindered his production. It was also difficult for him to follow a monster 2011 performance, in which he batted .307, hit 21 homers and stole 26 bases. Nevertheless, Pedroia will yet again be a safe bet for steals, batting average and plate appearances, ranking him among the top three fantasy second basemen.
9) Team 9- Jason Heyward, Atlanta Braves: Did I mention that I love Ken Griffey Jr.? I believe I did. Anyway, I also love Heyward because he reminds me so much of the future Hall of Fame center fielder. Fantasy owners should also love the fact that Heyward is coming off of his best season as a pro ballplayer, hitting 27 home runs (career-high) and knocking in 82 runs (career-high). The impressive 20 steals was also an added benefit. As long as his shoulder problems don’t linger on in 2013, Heyward will be a serious candidate for a 30/20 season, a rare combination in fantasy land.
10) Team 10- Matt Cain, San Francisco Giants: Cain has had himself quite the baseball career through seven years, wouldn’t you say? The 28-year old is already a two-time World Series champion and is now seeing his fantasy value rapidly rise, as if he actually cares. However, we, the fantasy enthusiasts, care quite a bit. While Cain already ranks among the top pitchers in inducing ground balls, he is also seeing his strikeout totals increase (177, 179, 193 over past three years). The only knock on Cain is that his career-high in wins is only 16 (last year), keeping out of the Cy Young discussions, but he remains an elite fantasy pitcher who is one of the safer options on the mound.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.