Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Updated Big Board, Analysis Entering Spring Training

Eric MatulaContributor IIFebruary 1, 2013

Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Updated Big Board, Analysis Entering Spring Training

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    With spring training inching closer, it's time to modify the mock draft that I drew up more than a month ago.

    Free-agent signings and blockbuster deals have shaken up the fantasy rankings. Some players have climbed the big board while others have dropped since my first analysis.

    How much has changed since then? Is Mike Trout still No. 1? Both of those questions and many more will be answered in the following slideshow: an updated fantasy big board.

Players 1-5

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    1. Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels—Trout can fill up a stat line. What's the most important thing to address with your first pick? Someone who can help you in all facets of the game. Trout is capable of a .300-plus average with 100-plus runs, 30-plus homers and 45-plus steals.

    2. Ryan Braun, OF, Milwaukee Brewers—Braun and Trout are almost identical. You'll get more home runs from Braun but fewer stolen bases. If you're hesitant to draft Trout No. 1, then you can't go wrong with Braun.

    3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B, Detroit Tigers—You know what you're getting from Cabrera. Since 2008, he has hit .323 while averaging 36 home runs, 120 RBI and 102 runs per season. There aren't many sure things in fantasy baseball, but Cabrera is one of them.

    4. Robinson Cano, 2B, New York Yankees—Finding a second baseman with power is rare. Finding a player who can hit for both power and average is equally as rare. Cano was just one of seven MLB players who hit .300 or higher while belting 30 or more homers.

    5. Albert Pujols, 1B, Los Angeles Angeles—Pujols had a down year last season. He hit .285 with 30 home runs and 105 RBI. That's a great line for someone who suffered a "letdown." Pujols is consistent and the Angels' lineup is very dangerous. Expect a monster year from The Machine.

Players 6-10

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    6. Joey Votto, 1B, Cincinnati Reds—Votto always finds a way to get on base. Had he registered enough at-bats, Votto would have had the highest OBP (.474) and OPS (1.041) last season. If your league uses these stats, then he's a no-brainer to go this early. Even with standard stats, Votto is valuable: he'll hit .300 or higher with 25-plus home runs.

    7. Matt Kemp, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers—Injuries derailed Kemp's 2012 season. It looked like he was going to repeat his incredible 2011 campaign, but hamstring issues caused him to miss 56 games. Kemp could go a little higher, but his hamstring and labrum injuries are concerning. Draft at your risk.

    8. Prince Fielder, 1B, Detroit Tigers—Fielder is very reliable. He has never played in fewer than 157 games, and he usually hits around .290 with 30 home runs. His power numbers took a hit in Comerica, but he still managed to hit 30 long balls. He's very good for filling up an offensive stat line.

    9. Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates—Cutch enjoyed a brilliant 2012 season. He hit .327 with 31 homers and 20 stolen bases. I expect a regression from McCutchen in 2013, but not much. He's going to be a 25/25 threat with a .290 average.

    10. Clayton Kershaw, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers—Taking a pitcher in the first round is always a personal preference. If you decide to take Kershaw, then you won't be disappointed. Over the last three years he has averaged 221 innings, 16 wins, a 2.56 ERA and 229 strikeouts per season.

Players 11-15

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    11. Jose Bautista, OF, Toronto Blue Jays—Remember Bautista? You know the guy who hit a combined 97 home runs in 2010 and 2011. He played in just 92 games last season, but he still belted 27 homers. The average won't be close to .300 again, but he's still good for .260 with 40 home runs.

    12. Justin Verlander, SP, Detroit Tigers—Some people don't like taking a pitcher early, but at season's end, Verlander will prove that he deserves to be a first-rounder. He is the equivalent to Trout or Braun in the pitchers' realm. He'll help you in every single pitching category except saves.

    13. Stephen Strasburg, SP, Washington Nationals—Strasburg finished in the top 70 of last year's rankings, and he only pitched 159.1 innings. Now, with a full slate of starts ahead of him, Strasburg will be even more of a force. He'll rank near the top of wins, ERA and strikeouts.

    14. Buster Posey, C/1B, San Francisco Giants—For catchers, it's essentially Posey and then everybody else. He possesses the rare contact and power abilities, especially at the catcher position. He hit 17 points higher and 14 more home runs than Joe Mauer last season.

    15. Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Colorado Rockies—It's the CarGo conundrum. He has the talent to go higher, but he's an injury risk. When he played 145 games in 2010, he put up MVP numbers, but over the last two seasons, he's missed an average of 31 games. At this point, you can't expect him to stay healthy, but he's still a threat to hit .300 with 25 homers and 20 steals.

Players 16-20

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    16. Josh Hamilton, OF, Los Angeles Angels—It was a roller coaster 2012 for Hamilton. Too many people are focusing on his low points of the season. Yes, he did hit .177 in July, but he finished the year hitting .285 with 43 home runs and 128 RBI. He might be streaky, but the finished product is still great.

    17. Giancarlo Stanton, OF, Miami Marlins—Despite missing 39 games last season, Stanton still hit 37 home runs, which was the seventh-highest mark in the MLB. I don't expect the average to be up at .290 again, but Stanton is a 23-year-old capable of hitting .270 with 40-plus homers.

    18. Cliff Lee, SP, Philadelphia Phillies—Lee's six wins a season ago weren't top-20 worthy, but the rest of his stats were. He compiled a 3.16 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 8.83 K/9 rate. You cannot expect the win column to be so barren again in 2013, so Lee should return as a top-notch pitcher.

    19. Troy Tulotwitzki, SS, Colorado Rockies—A year ago, Tulo was a consensus first-rounder. His injury-prone tag will drop his stock for the 2013 season though. Despite the risks, Tulowitzki is still the top shortstop. When healthy, he has the potential to hit .300 with 25-plus homers.

    20. Curtis Granderson, OF, New York Yankees—Granderson hit a paltry .232 last year, but he was just one of six players to hit 40 or more home runs. On top of the homers, he also swiped 10 bags, making him just one of three players with 40-plus long balls and 10-plus steals.

Players 21-25

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    21. Ian Kinsler, 2B, Texas Rangers—Kinsler had a lackluster 2012 season. After coming off a 32/30 year, Kinsler hit 19 home runs and stole 21 bases last season. Even though those numbers were way down from expectations, he still ranked near the top for second baseman. He'll remain there for the 2013 campaign because he should be closer to putting up 25/25 numbers.

    22. Billy Butler, 1B, Kansas City Royals—Butler finally displayed his power stroke in 2012. He set career-high marks with 29 home runs, 107 RBI and an .882 OPS. The power surge accompanied his steady .300 average and that's why he's so high on this board.

    23. Justin Upton, OF, Atlanta Braves—Upton joined his older brother to patrol the outfield in Atlanta. He's coming off a very underwhelming season, but he should be in for a nice rebound. He's gotten himself into a pattern of having a great year followed by a disappointing one. Expect a 25/20 season this year.

    24. Evan Longoria, 3B, Tampa Bay Rays—Longoria has trouble staying on the field, but when he does, he puts up great numbers. He blasted 31 homers in 2011 while missing 29 games, and he notched 17 big flies last year while playing in just 74 games. Third base is relatively thin, and he brings a lot to the table.

    25. Cole Hamels, SP, Philadelphia Phillies—After another sensational season, Hamels deserves to be considered with the elite tier of starting pitchers. He developed into the Phillies' ace last season, and he should enjoy similar success again in 2013.

Players 26-30

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    26. Jay Bruce, OF, Cincinnati Reds—One month Bruce will hit .296 with seven homers and then the next month he'll hit .229 with four bombs (he did that last April and May). He's frustrating to own—trust me I know, I've been there—but it's hard to pass on a guy who can hit 35 home runs and drive in 100.

    27. Adrian Beltre, 3B, Texas Rangers—Beltre will be 34 years old in April, but he hasn't shown any signs of slowing down. Since moving to Texas. Beltre has hit .310 while averaging 34 home runs, 103 RBI and 88 runs scored per season. Expect a decline this year, but nothing too drastic.

    28. David Price, SP, Tampa Bay Rays—Over the last three seasons, Price has emerged as a fantasy ace. During that span, he has averaged 214 innings, 17 wins, a 2.93 ERA and 203 strikeouts per season. The reigning Cy Young winner should continue his dominant ways.

    29. Felix Hernandez, SP, Seattle Mariners—Pitching for the Mariners, Hernandez fails to tally the wins like some of his counterparts. Even though King Felix posted a 3.06 ERA last season, he only managed to register a 13-9 record. He might struggle to win more than 13 games, but he'll make up for it in other departments.

    30. Edwin Encarnacion, 1B, Toronto Blue Jays—Encarnacion erupted onto the fantasy radar last season. That's what happens when you blast 42 homers with 13 steals and a .280 average. It'd be foolish to expect the same exact numbers, but 30 home runs and and a .270 average is attainable.

Players 31-35

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    31. Dustin Pedroia, 2B, Boston Red Sox—Pedroia was hampered with a pinkie injury last year. He missed 21 games and hit .290 with 15 homers and 20 steals. He underwent successful surgery to repair that torn pinkie ligament, so we should see a spike in those numbers this year.

    32. Matt Holliday, OF, St. Louis Cardinals—Holliday is very steady. Over the last five years, he has hit .308 while averaging 25 homers, 95 RBI and 94 runs per season. With the exception to an injury-plagued 2011 season, Holliday hasn't played in fewer than 156 games during that span.

    33. Matt Cain, SP, San Francisco Giants—Cain has been solid for the last few years, but he really broke out in 2012. He went 16-5 with a 2.79 ERA and 7.92 K/9 rate. He has electric stuff, plays in a pitcher-friendly home stadium and is part of a great team. Sounds like a recipe for success.

    34. David Wright, 3B, New York Mets—It was a tale of two halves for Wright last season. At the All-Star break, he was hitting .351, but he hit .258 in the second half. He tailed off, but he still manged to hit .306 with 21 homers and 15 steals, which is very solid for a third baseman. 

    35. Jose Reyes, SS, Toronto Blue Jays—When drafting Reyes you have to realize that his 60-stolen base days are gone. It's not that he's old, but speed is something that doesn't increase as you get older. With this said, he's still valuable for the position. Look for a .300 average and 40 stolen bases.

Players 36-40

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    36. Jason Heyward, OF, Atlanta Braves—Heyward followed up a dismal sophomore season with a brilliant 2012. He has that rare blend of power and speed that is incredibly valuable in the fantasy realm. Another 25/20 season is very plausible for the young outfielder.

    37. Hanley Ramirez, 3B/SS, Los Angeles Dodgers—Remember the days when HanRam would hit .330 with 25-plus home runs? It wasn't too long ago when he was the No. 1 overall pick in most drafts. It's a different story these days. He might never get close to .300 again, but he's got 3B and SS eligibility and the potential to be a 20/20 player.

    38. Adam Jones, OF, Baltimore Orioles—Jones had a breakout season in 2012. He set career highs with 32 homers, 103 runs scored and 16 stolen bases. Expect a small regression from Jones in 2013, but he'll still going to get you a .285 average with 25-plus home runs and 10-plus steals.

    39. Jered Weaver, SP, Los Angeles Angels—Weaver's high FIP and declining strikeout rate alarm me somewhat. That's the reason why someone who went 20-5 with a 2.81 ERA is this low on the board. I don't think he's capable of repeating those numbers, but he should be good for 15 wins.

    40. Craig Kimbrel, RP, Atlanta Braves—You might be thinking this is too early to draft a closer, but Kimbrel is a different story. When you have a chance to snag a closer who saved 42 games with a 1.01 ERA, 0.65 WHIP and 16.66 K/9, then you better not miss your opportunity.

Players 41-45

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    41. Gio Gonzalez, SP, Washington Nationals—Pending any violation of illegal PED use, Gonzalez should be drafted as one of the top starting pitchers. His biggest improvement last season was his control. He lowered his WHIP from 1.32 to 1.13. A better K/9 rate also boosted his fantasy stock.

    42. Zack Greinke, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers—Greinke decided to stay in LA—except he's changing leagues. It should be for the better. Although he won the Cy Young in the American League in 2009, he had a lower ERA and higher strikeout rate in the NL last year compared to the AL.

    43. Madison Bumgarner, SP, San Francisco Giants—For the second straight season, MadBum turned in an impressive resume. He won 16 games with a 3.37 ERA and 8.25 K/9 rate in 2012. You shouldn't expect anything different from the young southpaw this year.

    44. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Arizona Diamondbacks—There aren't too many first baseman who can put together a 20/10 season. In fact, there were just three of them last year (Goldschmidt included). With a full year under his belt, he should put up great numbers in 2013.

    45. R.A. Dickey, SP, Toronto Blue Jays—Dickey was amazing last season. His knuckleball danced him to the top of the pitcher rankings. The most impressive stat was his 4:1 K:BB ratio, which is insane to think about for a knuckleballer. Expect a drop in the numbers, but he'll still be valuable.

Players 46-50

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    46. Roy Halladay, SP, Philadelphia Phillies—Halladay wasn't himself last year. It was the first time in seven seasons that he failed to pitch more than 220 innings and register an ERA over 3.75. Let's not overreact though. His FIP was 3.69, which suggests that he'll right the ship in 2013.

    47. Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Chicago Cubs—In 87 games last season, Rizzo hit .285 with 15 home runs, 44 runs and 48 RBI. He is slated to hit third in the order, and he'll have decent protection with Alfonso Soriano hitting cleanup. The 23-year-old first baseman has 30-homer potential.

    48, Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, Boston Red Sox—Ellsbury could go higher (and most likely will), but he's an injury risk at a very deep position. Last year was the second time in three seasons that he missed significant time. I don't see anything close to 30 home runs any more, but a 15/35 season is realistic.

    49. Kris Medlen, SP, Atlanta Braves—Medlen was dazzling once he returned to the Braves rotation last season. He won 10 games with a 1.57 ERA and 0.91 WHIP. It would be foolish to expect the same numbers again in 2013, but he should win 14-plus games with a sub-three ERA. 

    50. Bryce Harper, OF, Washington Nationals—As a 20-year-old, Harper hit .270 with 22 home runs and 18 stolen bases last year. It's scary to think what Harper will do in five years. As for 2013, he's very capable of hitting .280 with 25 homers and 20 stolen bases.

Comparisons and Contrasts to Earlier Mock Draft

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    As I mentioned before, this is an updated big board to the mock draft that I created back on December 18. Here's a look at the new faces on this slideshow and the ones who failed to make the cut this time around.

    New Faces—Madison Bumgarner, Paul Goldschmidt, Roy Halladay, Anthony Rizzo.

    Dropping Out—Ben Zobrist, Mark Teixeira, Aroldis Chapman, CC Sabathia.