Fantasy Baseball: Re-Ranking the 2012 1st-Rounders

Tim Karan@timkaranContributor IIMay 10, 2012

Fantasy Baseball: Re-Ranking the 2012 1st-Rounders

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    You and your first-round pick share a special bond.

    You're probably not aware of it. And your player probably wouldn't want to know. But it's there. There's a chance you sometimes have trouble remembering exactly who you're fielding in the 2B/SS or fourth outfielder slots, but you're always aware of how your No. 1 pick is faring. (If you're in six leagues, that's six guys you feel a vague connection with each time they're on Baseball Tonight.)

    Using the general consensus top 12 picks from the preseason, there's about a 50 percent chance you're pretty happy with how things are going, a 16 percent chance you're mostly miserable and, of course, an eight percent chance you're ecstatic.*

    Obviously, if we could go back in time, Josh Hamilton would for sure be bumped into the first round. And Albert Pujols will probably finish a lot higher on this list (certainly higher than...well, he'll get better). But if you had to choose from the same top 12, here's probably the way you would re-shuffle them based on this season so far.

    * = Don't hold me to that math. But you get the point.

12. Jacoby Ellsbury

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    Okay, this really isn't fair.

    Jacoby Ellsbury only played seven games until he injured that right shoulder in mid-April, but things weren't exactly going well. He was hitting just .192 with no homers or steals to his name.

    He's on his way back (slowly), but he should be back with the Sox within a few weeks. When that happens, it still seems crazy that he'll hit 32 home runs again (after never hitting 10 before), but he should bring you 35-plus steals and solid numbers all around.

    Still, at least everyone who drafted Ellsbury has been able to give him the benefit of the doubt that he'll get it back together. The same, however, can't be said for everyone who drafted this next guy.

11. Albert Pujols

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    It's almost painful to look at him right now.

    Not only is Albert Pujols (who you probably drafted within the top five) apparently now allergic to hitting home runs, he owns the 13th-worst batting average of everyone in the majors

    It's just crazy town.

    He did finally hit his first homer last week, but it's not like that suddenly righted the ship. He's still gone only 3-for-25 in the past seven days. Just a couple weeks ago, I said he'd get back to his usual form (partly just to convince myself), and I still believe that.

    But it's not like he's making it all that easy. 

10. Jose Bautista

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    The good news is that aside from his insane .302 average last season, Jose Bautista has never really hit for average. The bad news is, he's only really been good the past two years. So you've got to be asking yourself if a guy hitting .182 was really worth that top pick.

    But if you slide over to the home run column, you'll see Bautista has a healthy five—nowhere near a 54 or 43 homer pace, but still four more than Pujols. Granted, Omar Infante has more home runs than Bautista, but things can't stay that way for long.

    Can they?

    Don't ask me: I'm from Pittsburgh, and Bautista was like a completely different guy as a Pirate. In fact, I don't think I've ever known him at all.

9. Robinson Cano

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    He's getting there. Maybe.

    Yeah, Robinson Cano isn't even close to being the most valuable second baseman of the young season. He isn't even in the top 10. Mark Ellis is doing better.

    While the average is at a livable .270 and he rewarded you a grand slam the other night, that, of course, came after no homers or RBI in six straight games. Then none the game after.

    Still, Cano should see his stock start to rise. All of the Yankees except maybe Curtis Granderson have had issues, and Cano still has time to hit at least 20 more home runs—probably more like 25.

8. Joey Votto

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    Bright side: He ain't Albert Pujols.

    But Joey Votto has had little else going for him. Yes, he's been getting on base all year and walking just as much as he strikes out—which is very good for him. He even leads the NL in walks. But he only has two homers to go with his 18 RBI, and .293 doesn't feel nearly as good as .324 does. (Still pretty good, though.)

    Does he look like a perennial MVP candidate? Meh. But he's pulling his weight, and he's certainly capable of more. 

7. Troy Tulowitzki

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    If most other shortstops didn't suck at hitting, you might not have used this pick on Troy Tulowitzki.

    That's not to say he's bad. He's actually very good. He's about as reasonable a bet to hit 30 homers and 100 RBI with a .300 average as there is in the game. But other guys put up those numbers last year, too—guys like Michael Morse and Aramis Ramirez. And there's no way they were anyone's No. 1 pick.  

    Unlike teammate Carlos Gonzalez, who also seemed to take his sweet time heating up, Tulowitzki is struggling. He's got just three home runs and 13 RBI to go with an underwhelming .277 average.

    However, those numbers still are pretty impressive for a shortstop. Not great, but Top 10. And he's had seasons where he doubled his home run output in the second half.

6. Clayton Kershaw

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    Let's be clear: I would never recommend taking a pitcher in the first round. No matter how disgustingly filthy his stuff might be, he'll just never contribute in five stat categories like a hitter can.

    But some of you drafted one first anyway. Luckily, the two most likely first-round candidates are both producing at a respectable-to-awesome level.

    Clayton Kershaw would be one of them. He may be just 2-1, but his 0.90 WHIP is ninth in the majors, and his 41 Ks are good for 11th. He's been roughed up a little as of late, but he's still in the top 15 pitchers so far and all but assured to eventually drop the one from in front of that five.

    But being the 15th-best pitcher still puts you outside the 50 best fantasy players, and you might now be wishing you had snagged Josh Hamilton instead. 

5. Prince Fielder

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    With Prince Fielder, we finally move into the realm of first-round batters who aren't disappointments.

    The power is only starting to come on (he has two homers and three RBI in his last three games), but his average has been hovering right around .300.

    It might be a little unrealistic to believe he'll hit more home runs than his dad usually did in a Tigers uniform this season—and he's going to have to pick up the pace to break 30. But it's almost impossible to believe he won't.

    Remember, Miguel Cabrera took a minute to get used to the AL and Comerica Park, too—and we haven't called his name in this list yet. (And you'll see it still isn't quite time yet.) 

4. Justin Verlander

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    If your No. 1 pick was a pitcher not named Kershaw, it was probably the reigning AL Cy Young winner and MVP.

    Justin Verlander has been having another awesome year, and that's not just because Kate Upton says his name in a video game commercial. He's 3-1 with the second-most Ks in baseball (as of this writing, his 48 are just three behind Felix Hernandez). 

    He's got a 2.63 ERA (just a hair higher than where he finished last season), but his 0.94 WHIP suggests that number could fall.

    Don't get me wrong: I'd still rather have Prince Fielder than Verlander—but the numbers favor Verlander so far. However, I'd still choose their other teammate over both of them.

3. Miguel Cabrera

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    That's three Tigers in a row up near the top of the list. Put that in a Ford commercial.

    Miguel Cabrera was probably drafted within the first three picks in your league, so you can't be all that upset with his current placement. He (and you) endured an ugly 0-for-22 stretch in April, but he's still delivered seven home runs and 22 RBI.

    He's just now getting his average to creep back up to .300, but he'll be fine. There's no reason to believe he can't get to his usual .325 to .340 and he's on pace for his standard 38 homers and 119 RBI. 

    That's exactly what you paid for.

2. Ryan Braun

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    Whether you drafted him enthusiastically or reluctantly, Ryan Braun has been silencing his skeptics.

    With 10 home runs, 21 RBI, a .313 average and even four stolen bases, he's well within the top 10 players in fantasy at the moment. In fact, his current home run pace would give him 52—a number that would annihilate his previous best of 37 (in 2008).

    That's exactly why it's probably a safe bet that Braun will slow down at least a little as the season slinks by. Still, of all the probable first-round picks before this season, he's performing the best across the board of any of the guys named so far.

    But there is still one more name. 

1. Matt Kemp

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    Matt Kemp can fly.

    And he uses an abandoned railroad car as his bat and he's just waiting for the second half to add the 40 steals to the 400-or-so home runs.

    Honestly, a lot of the hype around Kemp has subsided thanks to Hamilton-sanity. But Hamilton was a second-rounder at best this year, while Kemp didn't fall past the No. 2 overall pick. Kemp is hitting an otherworldly .404 with 12 homers and 27 RBI. If he keeps it up all year, he would be a threat for the Triple Crown and to break the single-season home run record. 

    At this point, if you passed over Kemp with your first pick, you're probably afraid to watch nightly highlights—especially if you took the other guy from Los Angeles. You know the one.