Fantasy Baseball 2012: Dee Gordon, Colby Rasmus and Draft Tips by Position
Conventional wisdom, and the analysis of aging, overweight writers for years has been "first base is deep, the rest of the infield is shallow, get power at the corners and speed in the outfield."
While some of that rings true, fantasy baseball owners will be missing out on a great deal of potential advantages by reading a bit deeper and looking at things about this season that are unique to 2012.
Fantasy baseball is covered so broadly today that everyone has access to the same stats and trends, but in the next few slides, you will find position-specific tips that can provide the edge you need.
Catcher: Underrated Stars
Every year, I wait and wait and wait on catching because the top options are snapped up early and the rest are virtually the same. This season, that is changing because top options are being severely undervalued.
Joe Mauer and Buster Posey are coming off injuries from 2011, different kinds of injuries which both present some risk in 2012. That being said, both have been deemed totally healthy and are back in action for their teams. If either team had any concern, it's doubtful they'd risk their stars. If both play 130 or more games, both are top five catchers available in the ninth round or later.
After those two, you'd do well to wait. Serviceable backstops like Wilson Ramos and Geovany Soto are both capable of 20 HR with at least respectable averages. Even deeper leagues will consider the services of Devin Mesoraco useful as he eventually works from a platoon to a full-time starting job in Cincy.
Also don't forget Jesus Montero, who I expect will earn catching eligibility by May and would be among the top seven or eight at the position. I've already drafted him in one league this year.
First Base: Not as Deep as You Think
Every year analysts rave about the depth at first base. But despite the typical names at the top, this position gets ugly quick.
Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols, Joey Votto, Adrian Gonzalez, Prince Fielder and Mark Teixeira... add a tier of Paul Konerko and Eric Hosmer just below them. Then there are a ton of questions.
The next six or seven guys are being drafted too high because owners are getting panicky when they see the top six gone. Let people reach. There is still value later if you're selective. Consider Ike Davis, Mark Reynolds and a personal favorite sleeper of mine, Adam Dunn, later in drafts.
For the late rounds, both Justin Morneau and Kendry Morales are worth a flier, and consider Brandon Belt late in deeper league drafts as well. There's 20 home runs and decent average there.
Second Base: Balanced
Robinson Cano, Dustin Pedroia, Ian Kinsler and then everyone else...that's a summary of second base, to an extent. No second baseman is within 15 spots of Kinsler on my personal rankings. However, this is one position that can be satisfactorily filled at any point in the draft.
If you're drafting early, take one of those three. A few rounds later Chase Utley might have fallen into your lap, but if not, there's still Howard Kendrick, Neil Walker and Ryan Roberts. Still waiting? Kelly Johnson, Aaron Hill and Danny Espinosa all have a lot of power for middle infielders. Deep leagues might even take late fliers on Jose Altuve or Brian Roberts.
There's a significant advantage to having one of the top three, and they deserve late-first, early second-round consideration, but if you miss out, fret not at second base.
Third Base: Deeper Than You Think
First base is six deep at the top. While Evan Longoria and Joey Bautista belong in their own tier, third base is 11 deep with excellent players who should thrill you to plug into your starting lineup.
After Longo and Joey Bats, Adrian Beltre, David Wright, Ryan Zimmerman, Pablo Sandoval, Kevin Youkilis and Alex Rodriguez are all likely excellent producers, and Aramis Ramirez, Brett Lawrie and Mark Reynolds, while having more risk, also should please their owners.
Deep leaguers need to be aware of Mat Gamel, Jed Lowrie and Pedro Alvarez. Each has questions, but each will get opportunity this season and should produce respectable numbers comparable to their current draft position.
Shortstop: Top Heavy
Shortstop is as top-heavy as any position and one that requires an owner to be extremely selective later on. If you miss out on Troy Tulowitzki, Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes and the next tier of Starlin Castro, Elvis Andrus and Jimmy Rollins, then wait patiently.
Asdrubal Cabrera and Derek Jeter are both good bets to regress, for different reasons. Meanwhile, going after both in drafts is JJ.. Hardy, who led all shortstops with 30 HR in 2011. A favorite pick of mine, and one I own in two leagues this season is Dee Gordon. Batting leadoff for the Dodgers, Gordon has Michael Bourn speed, with 50 to 60 steals and 90 to 100 runs likely. He is capable of batting .285, but is a risk to hit .265. But worth the risk.
Shortstop, more than any other spot on the field gets ugly in a hurry. There are, perhaps, 15 total shortstop eligible players who wouldn't make me nauseous to have in a lineup. This is one position you cannot wait on.
Outfield: Same Drill
Outfield is a bit boring to write about because it is the same every year. There is a ton of useful names, and few unknowns. Don't take Jacoby Ellsbury in the first round. His 2011 power looks a lot like Joe Mauer in 2009. Be thrilled to get 20 HR from Ellsbury, to go with his usual exemplary steals and runs scored.
Call it a gut call, but I like B.J. Upton a lot this year. Michael Bourn is undervalued, as is Jason Heyward, but he is rising in mocks over the last week, so he may not be a bargain for long. Carl Crawford is overvalued, as is Bryce Harper, Mike Trout and Desmond Jennings.
Colby Ramsus, Brandon Belt and Delmon Young are all worth late picks as fourth, fifth or reserve outfielders. Brennan Boesch and John Mayberry Jr. are both intriguing deep-league options, as are Yonder Alonso and Jose Tabata.
Mainly, wait on outfield because there's enough for everyone.
Starting Pitching: Deep...as Usual...
Don't miss out of Clay Buchholz. He is being drafted after the top 50 starters and has top-30 upside.
Ultimately, there are 14 aces, and you will want one because there's no ulcer-protection like a guy who does it every fifth day, and after these 14, there is risk with every pitcher available. Those aces in my book are (not in order) Clayton Kershaw, Justin Verlander, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Felix Hernandez, Jered Weaver, Tim Lincecum, Cole Hamels, Dan Haren, CC Sabathia, Zack Greinke, David Price, Matt Cain and Jon Lester.
Everyone else has risks. Matt Moore and Stephen Strasburg are going ludicrously early. They are worth it in keeper leagues but borderline top-20 starting pitcher slot for Strasburg and top-25 for Moore in non-keepers.
Meanwhile, Madison Bumgarner, Jordan Zimmerman and Brandon Beachy are being overlooked. Of the pitchers returning from injury, both Adam Wainwright and Josh Johnson should outpitch their current draft position. Yu Darvish will be great until mid-July and then trade him while you can.
And of the relievers becoming starters, I'll be investing in Chris Sale and Daniel Bard before Neftali Feliz or Aroldis Chapman.
There is plenty of pitching for any league. At some point, it becomes personal preference. Take guys you like, don't be afraid to make a gut call when it comes down to Brandon Morrow versus Ted Lilly (I prefer Morrow).
Relief Pitching: Wait for It...
This is my favorite stat right now.
2011 saves leaders (in order): Valverde, Axford, Kimbrel, Putz, Rivera, Bell, Storen, Hanrahan, Cordero, League.
2010 saves leaders: Wilson, Bell, Soriano, Soria, Capps, Cordero, Feliz, Marmol, Gregg, Papelbon.
The only guys in the top 10 both years were Heath Bell, now in Miami, and Francisco Cordero, who is slated to set up for Sergio Santos in Toronto and will NOT close.
Smile and nod as your friends take elite closers early on, and smile bigger when you spend much later picks on Jordan Walden, Kyle Farnsworth, Sergio Santos, Carlos Marmol and Jim Johnson.
Deeper leagues, you can gain a serious advantage on the competition by drafting setup men poised to close. Addison Reed is a favorite sleeper of mine this year, likely to be closing for the White Sox by June, as will be Kenley Jansen. Also grab Mark Melancon because he is second in line behind the constantly injured Andrew Bailey.