Miguel Cabrera is about as steady as they come in fantasy baseball.
We're about a month away from Opening Day, which means the fantasy season is upon us. As players tune up their skills in spring training games, you should be preparing for your draft and developing strategies.
Who's the best first baseman to own? How deep will the catcher position be this year? Can Chase Headley translate his monster second half into a full season? All these questions will be answered.
Here's a look at position-by-position rankings. I've listed the top 10 for each position and provided projected stats as well.
Buster Posey is the unanimous No.1 catcher.
The catcher pool used to be a very weak one. Now, with the emergence of several young and bright stars, the position is getting much deeper.
1. Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants—For catchers, it's Posey and then everybody else. He's the elite option. The reigning NL MVP will most likely suffer a regression in 2013, but it shouldn't be anything drastic. Having Posey in your catcher slot gives you an advantage week in and week out.
Projection: .305 BA, 20 HR, 90 RBI, 80 R, .880 OPS
2. Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins—Mauer used to be considered the top backstop to own, but his power outage over the last three seasons has dropped his stock. He still remains valuable, though, because of his average. He was just one of three catchers to hit at least .300 last season.
Projection: .310 BA, 10 HR, 75 RBI, 80 R, .840 OPS
3. Carlos Santana, Cleveland Indians—Santana was a big letdown last season. He had lofty expectations placed on him, and he fell way short of them. Don't give up on the 26-year-old though. He hit .281 and belted 13 of his 18 homers in the second half.
Projection: .255 BA, 22 HR, 80 RBI, 75 R, .820 OPS
4. Mike Napoli, Boston Red Sox—Napoli failed to stay healthy last season (again), but he still managed to blast 24 home runs. The move to Boston certainly won't hurt, especially since he'll have the Green Monster. Cody Ross, Jason Bay and Jarrod Saltalamacchia all reaped the benefits of the wall.
Projection: .250 BA, 25 HR, 75 RBI, 70 R, .850 OPS
5. Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals—Molina enjoyed a brilliant season last year. He set career highs with a .315 average, 22 homers, 76 RBI, 65 runs, 12 steals and an .874 OPS. The chances he repeats those numbers are slim. Expect a regression across the board.
Projection: .295 BA, 15 HR, 70 RBI, 60 R, 8 SB, .800 OPS
6. Wilin Rosario, Colorado Rockies—Rosario played in just 117 games last season, but he still led all MLB catchers with 28 home runs. Only good things can come out of a situation when you mix great power with Coors Field. He is on his way to becoming an elite catcher option.
Projection: .270 BA, 25 HR, 65 RBI, 55 R, .820 OPS
7. Matt Wieters, Baltimore Orioles—Wieters followed up his impressive 2011 season with another nice performance in 2012. He showed that the power was no fluke by belting 23 home runs and driving in 83 runs. He might not have the average everyone anticipated, but he's still a solid option.
Projection: .265 BA, 20 HR, 75 RBI, 70 R, .775 OPS
8. Jesus Montero, Seattle Mariners—Montero had a pretty good rookie campaign last year. He hit .260 with 15 homers while not only adjusting to MLB pitchers, but to a new city as well. As a 23-year-old, his potential and ability to improve is sky high.
Projection: .270 BA, 18 HR, 70 RBI, 60 R, .745 OPS
9. Victor Martinez, Detroit Tigers—Martinez returns to action in 2013 and solidifies what was already a potent Tigers lineup. He shouldn't see any time behind the plate, which makes him a very valuable phantom catcher option. In 2011, V-Mart hit .330 with 12 homers and 103 RBI.
Projection: .300 BA, 13 HR, 70 RBI, 65 R, .800 OPS
10. Miguel Montero, Arizona Diamondbacks—Montero is starting to prove that he's a reliable option. Over the last four years, he has averaged 15 home runs and 69 RBI per season. He's slated to begin the year as the D-backs' cleanup hitter, which should provide him with solid RBI chances.
Projection: .270 BA, 15 HR, 70 RBI, 65 R, .790 OPS
Albert Pujols might be on a delicne, but he's still the top option.
As always, first base is packed with superstars. This is your easiest place to find an abundance of power. There's no need to reach for a first baseman because this is one of the deepest positions.
1. Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels—Despite a trend that shows Pujols is on a decline, he still remains as the top first base option. Over the last five years, his batting average and home runs have dropped significantly, but he was putting up video game numbers back then. He is still elite.
Projection: .295 BA, 33 HR, 105 RBI, 95 R, 9 SB, .900 OPS
2. Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds—When Votto returned from his injury last season, his power was nonexistent. That is a red flag, but you have to assume he'll be ready to go for the beginning of 2013. It also helps that Votto is an OBP king, and that helps every other offensive category.
Projection: .305 BA, 28 HR, 100 RBI, 100 R, 8 SB, .955 OPS
3. Prince Fielder, Detroit Tigers—Over the last two seasons, Fielder has hit .306 and has averaged 34 homers with 114 RBI per season. He becomes even more valuable when you thrown in the fact that he has never played in fewer than 157 games. Expect the usual monster season from Fielder.
Projection: .290 BA, 30 HR, 105 RBI, 95 R, .920 OPS
4. Adrian Gonzalez, Los Angeles Dodgers—Gonzalez suffered a letdown last year, but it was only a regression because of the standard he has set for himself. He hit .299 with 18 homers and 108 RBI, and most players would welcome that line any day. So should fantasy owners.
Projection: .290 BA, 25 HR, 95 RBI, 85 R, .850 OPS
5. Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto Blue Jays—Encarnacion was the darling of 2012, hitting .280 with 42 homers, 110 RBI and 13 steals last season. A repeat performance shouldn't be expected, but Jose Bautista taught us to not ignore power hitters north of the border. He'll regress, but it won't be drastic.
Projection: .275 BA, 30 HR, 90 RBI, 85 R, 8 SB, .860 OPS
6. Billy Butler, Kansas City Royals—For years, Butler was a steady source of a good batting average and RBI, but his developed power makes him more of a force. I don't expect the home runs to disappear because he's only 26 years old and just entering his prime.
Projection: .300 BA, 25 HR, 95 RBI, 80 R, .850 OPS
7. Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs—There's fear that Rizzo could suffer a sophomore slump, but the Eric Hosmer cautionary tale doesn't scare me away. Everybody saw what he's capable of doing last year, when he hit .285 with 15 home runs in just 87 games. He has 30-homer potential this season.
Projection: .275 BA, 28 HR, 90 RBI, 80 R, 6 SB, .835 OPS
8. Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks—Goldschmidt possesses that rare blend of power and speed, and it's even rarer to find at the first base position. He put up very respectable numbers last season, and I would expect the 25-year-old to improve in 2013.
Projection: .270 BA, 25 HR, 85 RBI, 80 R, 13 SB, .840 OPS
9. Paul Konerko, Chicago White Sox—People tend to overlook the 36-year-old seasoned vet. But why? All he has done is produce over the last three seasons. During that span he has hit .304 while averaging 32 homers and 97 RBI per season. Don't forget about old, reliable Konerko.
Projection: .285 BA, 26 HR, 85 RBI, 75 R, .860 OPS
10. Mark Teixeira, New York Yankees—Teixeira used to find himself much higher on this list, but his declining average drops him significantly in the rankings. His .300 days are long gone, and he might never hit above .265 again, but he still does provide 30-homer potential, and that is hard to ignore.
Projection: .255 BA, 30 HR, 90 RBI, 80 R, .830 OPS
When it comes to second base, Robinson Cano is No. 1 by far.
Second base has firepower at the top of the list, but there's a big drop-off after that. It will be one of the thinnest positions again for the 2013 campaign.
1. Robinson Cano, New York Yankees—Cano is easily considered the top option at second base. He was the only second baseman to hit 30-plus homers, and he was just one of seven MLB players to hit .300 or higher with 30-plus home runs in 2012. He is definitely a first-round pick.
Projection: .305 BA, 30 HR, 105 RBI, 95 R, 4 SB, .885 OPS
2. Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox—For the second time in three years, Pedroia missed significant time last season. It could be an issue, but given the position scarcity and his proven track record, he is still a great option. A healthy Pedroia is a threat to be a top-25 fantasy player.
Projection: .295 BA, 16 HR, 75 RBI, 90 R, 20 SB, .815 OPS
3. Ian Kinsler, Texas Rangers—Kinsler had a very underwhelming season last year, but even though he fell short of expectations, he still finished in the top 40 overall. After being a 30/30 player in 2009 and 2011, he hit just 19 homers and stole 21 bags last year. Even with those numbers, he's still a top choice.
Projection: .265 BA, 20 HR, 65 RBI, 100 R, 20 SB, .795 OPS
4. Brandon Phillips, Cincinnati Reds—Phillips is proving that he's a solid, consistent pick at second base. Over the last three years, he has hit .285 while averaging 18 homers, 93 runs and 14 stolen bases per season. He's slotted to hit second in a very good Reds lineup.
Projection: .280 BA, 18 HR, 75 RBI, 85 R, 13 SB, .765 OPS
5. Jose Altuve, Houston Astros—Unlike the players mentioned before him, Altuve provides something different. His biggest asset is his speed. Last year, Altuve led all of MLB second basemen with 33 stolen bases. He also hit .290, which makes him a solid pick for two categories.
Projection: .285 BA, 10 HR, 55 RBI, 80 R, 30 SB, .740 OPS
6. Aaron Hill, Arizona Diamondbacks—Hill had a resurgent year in 2012. After hitting .225 with 34 combined home runs from 2010-2011, he hit .302 with 26 homers last season. I'm not ready to mark him down for a repeat season, but he has shown he can be fantasy relevant again.
Projection: .270 BA, 20 HR, 75 RBI, 75 R, 10 SB, .770 OPS
7. Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians—Kipnis took the league by storm last year as a rookie. He faded pretty quickly in the second half, but he proved that he's a top-10 pick for the position. He's like a hybrid of Kinsler and Altuve. He doesn't have Kinsler's power or Altuve's speed, but he's above-average in each.
Projection: .265 BA, 15 HR, 70 RBI, 80 R, 25 SB, .740 OPS
8. Rickie Weeks, Milwaukee Brewers—Weeks' .230 average was downright awful last season, but there are signs of promise. After hitting .199 in the first half, he hit .261 and belted 13 of his 21 home runs after the All-Star Game. He also provides value with double-digit stolen bases.
Projection: .255 BA, 20 HR, 65 RBI, 80 R, 11 SB, .775 OPS
9. Chase Utley, Philadelphia Phillies—Years of injuries have dropped Utley down the rankings significantly. He hasn't registered more than 425 at-bats since 2009, and he has hit under .260 in each of the last two seasons. With that said, he still has 15/15 potential.
Projection: .265 BA, 15 HR, 65 RBI, 70 R, 13 SB, .800 OPS
10. Neil Walker, Pittsburgh Pirates—Walker doesn't do anything great, but he's just about average in most categories. He isn't a stud by any means, but he also won't kill you either. Hitting in front of Andrew McCutchen, he should get plenty of pitches to hit.
Projection: .275 BA, 15 HR, 70 RBI, 75 R, 7 SB, .760 OPS
Despite being injury prone, Troy Tulowitzki is the best shortstop.
Like second base, the shortstop position is a shallow one. There are some superstars at the top, but they come with problems. Shortstop is easily the hardest position to fill.
1. Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies—Tulowitzki remains as the top shortstop option despite carrying an injury-prone tag. The fact that he's missed an average of 58 games over the last three seasons is very alarming, but, the truth is, there aren't too many options at shortstop. His potential is still the best.
Projection: .300 BA, 25 HR, 85 RBI, 80 R, 8 SB, .900 OPS
2. Hanley Ramirez, Los Angeles Dodgers—Ramirez will have both shortstop and third base eligibility, but he's more valuable here at short. He might not hit above .275 any more, but his potential to be a 20/20 player is very attractive for the position.
Projection: .270 BA, 22 HR, 85 RBI, 85 R, 23 SB, .790 OPS
3. Jose Reyes, Toronto Blue Jays—Reyes is another shortstop who is bound to get hurt. He stayed healthy last season, but that shouldn't erase the three years before that. Expectations should be moderated with Reyes now, but he is a solid pick for shortstop.
Projection: .295 BA, 10 HR, 60 RBI, 90 R, 30 SB, .800 OPS
4. Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay Rays—Zobrist isn't a superstar, but he finds a way to contribute in every offensive category. It's this balanced attack that makes him incredibly valuable. Finding above-average production across the board isn't easy to find, especially at shortstop.
Projection: .270 BA, 18 HR, 80 RBI, 85 R, 15 SB, .810 OPS
5. Starlin Castro, Chicago Cubs—There's a lot to like about Castro. For one, he's just 22 years old and already has two full seasons under his belt. Secondly, he's been able to notch 390 hits over the last two years. Castro is young and is poised to be a superstar.
Projection: .290 BA, 11 HR, 70 RBI, 75 R, 20 SB, .765 OPS
6. Jimmy Rollins, Philadelphia Phillies—Thanks to a power display in the second half of last season, Rollins finished the 2012 campaign as the top shortstop. I expect a regression from him this season, but he still possess the ability to be a 20/20 guy.
Projection: .260 BA, 18 HR, 65 RBI, 85 R, 25 SB, .735 OPS
7. Asdrubal Cabrera, Cleveland Indians—As expected, Cabrera came back down to earth last season after a monster 2011 campaign. Even with the regression, he still remained as a viable shortstop option. Expect another solid performance from Cabrera in 2013.
Projection: .275 BA, 15 HR, 75 RBI, 80 R, 11 SB, .760 OPS
8. Ian Desmond, Washington Nationals—Desmond was sensational last season, but don't overdraft him because of that career year. He nearly tripled his previous career-best mark in home runs and hit 23 points higher than his 2010 clip. He'll be solid again in 2013, but don't expect another miracle.
Projection: .270 BA, 17 HR, 70 RBI, 70 R, 20 SB, .745 OPS
9. Elvis Andrus, Texas Rangers—Andrus enters this year coming off of a disappointing 2012 season. His batting average was up to .286, but he stole just 21 bases, which was drastically lower than the 37 bags he swiped the year before. It's a red flag, but he should be closer to 30 again in 2013.
Projection: .285 BA, 4 HR, 55 RBI, 90 R, 25 SB, .720 OPS
10. Josh Rutledge, Colorado Rockies—Rutledge will be a great sleeper for the 2013 season. In 277 at-bats last season, he hit .274 with eight home runs and seven stolen bases. He's the Rockies' starting second baseman, but he'll have shortstop eligibility to begin the year.
Projection: .290 BA, 15 HR, 65 RBI, 70 R, 15 SB, .800 OPS
It's no surprise to find Miguel Cabrera at the top of the 3B rankings.
Third base is gaining more depth. It's not littered with talent like first base or outfield, but it's certainly more stacked than the middle infield positions.
1. Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers—Isn't this a no-brainer? Fresh off winning the Triple Crown last year, Cabrera will be the top third baseman, and he will be one of the first three players drafted. He's the model of consistency. Over the last five years, he has hit .323 while averaging 36 homers, 120 RBI and 102 runs per season.
Projection: .315 BA, 35 HR, 115 RBI, 105 R, .965 OPS
2. Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers—Instead of slowing down with age, Beltre is actually getting better. Since 2010, he has increased his home run total every season. He plays in a very hitter-friendly stadium, and he is surrounded with great talent. As long as he stays healthy, he's an elite third base option.
Projection: .300 BA, 28 HR, 90 RBI, 80 R, .850 OPS
3. Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays—Longoria could easily be slotted No. 2, but injury concerns hurt his stock. Over the last two years, Longo has missed an average of 58 games per season. When healthy, he's an MVP candidate, but he just needs to stay on the field.
Projection: .280 BA, 30 HR, 95 RBI, 85 R, 6 SB, .865 OPS
4. David Wright, New York Mets—Wright played like an MVP in the first half of last season. But after the All-Star Game, Wright saw his average plummet from .351 to .306. A .300 average is nothing to complain about, and that's why he's ranked fourth. Just imagine if he could put together two strong halves.
Projection: .285 BA, 20 HR, 85 RBI, 85 R, 15 SB, .830 OPS
5. Aramis Ramirez, Milwaukee Brewers—Ramirez has righted the ship after hitting a lowly .241 in 2010. He has hit .300 or higher while belting 25-plus homers in each of the two seasons since then. You can't go wrong with A-Ram because he's proved he's a very reliable option.
Projection: .285 BA, 25 HR, 90 RBI, 75 R, .840 OPS
6. Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals—With Zimmerman at No. 6, this just goes to show you how deep third base has become. Zim used a torrid second half to salvage his season. After the All-Star Game, he hit .319 with 17 home runs and 55 RBI. He's still a solid pick to man the hot corner.
Projection: .285 BA, 22 HR, 85 RBI, 80 R, .830 OPS
7. Pablo Sandoval, San Francisco Giants—Sandoval failed to stay healthy in the regular season, but he showed what he's capable of in the postseason. In 16 games, he hit .364 with six homers and 13 RBI. Plus, he averages 24 home runs in years that end with an odd number (compared to 12 in even years).
Projection: .290 BA, 20 HR, 85 RBI, 75 R, .825 OPS
8. Brett Lawrie, Toronto Blue Jays—Lawrie didn't live up to the hype last season. I'll give him a pass because he's just 23 years old and he was dealing with injuries. He is primed to be a post-hype sleeper in 2013. He has raw talent, and he's now surrounded with more talent.
Projection: .275 BA, 18 HR, 70 RBI, 75 R, 17 SB, .780 OPS
9. Chase Headley, San Diego Padres—Why is Headley so low? Well, I'm not ready to reach for him after a monster second half. Before last season, he never hit more than 12 home runs. I'm a little wary of trusting those skyrocketed power numbers. The best part for him is that Petco moved their fences in.
Projection: .270 BA, 20 HR, 80 RBI, 75 R, 14 SB .775 OPS
10. Martin Prado, Arizona Diamondbacks—Prado is valuable because he'll have eligibility at outfield, third base, shortstop and second base (depending on your league settings). He's another guy who isn't spectacular at any one thing, but he'll help out in almost every offensive category.
Projection: .290 BA, 12 HR, 70 RBI, 80 R, 10 SB, .780 OPS
After a dazzling rookie season, Mike Trout is the best outfielder.
Just as expected, outfield provides a ton of superstars. The talent pool is the deepest out of all the positions, and every season someone comes out of nowhere.
1. Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels—I consider Trout as the No. 1 overall player, so of course he'd be at the very top of the outfield rankings. He showed that he can do it all last year in his rookie season. A beefier, more mature Trout is capable of putting up ridiculous numbers again.
Projection: .300 BA, 30 HR, 80 RBI, 115 R, 45 SB .875 OPS
2. Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers—Trout and Braun aren't No. 1 and No. 2. They're more like 1a and 1b. What is there not to love about Braun? As long as he doesn't get in trouble with the PED allegations, Braun is a fantasy stud. He's proved that he belongs in the No. 1 overall discussions.
Projection: .305 BA, 35 HR, 110 RBI, 100 R, 25 SB .920 OPS
3. Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers—Kemp was well on his way to having another monster season last year. Then he got injured. Then he got injured again. He only played in 106 games, but he still managed to belt 23 home runs and drive in 69 runs. He, too, is capable of being the best fantasy player.
Projection: .290 BA, 30 HR, 100 RBI, 95 R, 20 SB .870 OPS
4. Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins—Stanton is just 23 years old, but he already has a pair of 34-plus home run seasons. He is a physical specimen, and you know the power numbers have the potential to increase. With power being down across the league, that makes Stanton very valuable.
Projection: .275 BA, 40 HR, 100 RBI, 90 R, 6 SB .935 OPS
5. Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates—McCutchen enjoyed a fantastic season last year. He was just one of three MLB players to hit at least .300 with 30-plus home runs and 20-plus steals. He'll have a regression in 2013, but he'll remain an elite outfielder.
Projection: .290 BA, 25 HR, 90 RBI, 95 R, 20 SB .865 OPS
6. Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays—Bautista's 2012 campaign was wasted by a slow start and then injuries. Despite missing 70 games and only hitting three home runs in the first month of the season, he still finished with 27 big flies. His average won't come close to his 2011 clip, but his power will.
Projection: .265 BA, 37 HR, 95 RBI, 95 R, 7 SB .940 OPS
7. Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies—If only Gonzalez could stay healthy. When he's on the field, he's MVP material, but with outfield so deep, it's not worth the risk to take him earlier. He follows the mold of most of the players already mentioned: the potential to contribute all across the board.
Projection: .300 BA, 25 HR, 90 RBI, 90 R, 20 SB .885 OPS
8. Josh Hamilton, Los Angeles Angels—Hamilton might put you through a roller coaster season, but you know the finished product will be what you're looking for. He'll have Trout and Albert Pujols ahead of him and Mark Trumbo behind him, so he'll be in for another fine season.
Projection: .280 BA, 30 HR, 95 RBI, 85 R, 7 SB .845 OPS
9. Matt Holliday, St. Louis Cardinals—Holliday is Mr. Consistent. Over the last four years, he has hit .305 while averaging 25 HR, 97 RBI, 91 runs and seven stolen bases per season. He's being overlooked on draft day, but don't make that mistake. You can rely on him.
Projection: .285 BA, 25 HR, 95 RBI, 90 R, 6 SB .850 OPS
10. Jay Bruce, Cincinnati Reds—Since 2010, Bruce's home runs, RBI and stolen bases have improved each season. That's a very encouraging sign. As a 25-year-old, you can only expect those numbers to continue to increase.
Projection: .260 BA, 35 HR, 95 RBI, 85 R, 7 SB .835 OPS
Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher to own.
The starting pitcher pool is very deep. Getting a front line ace isn't easy, but you can get talented and serviceable pitchers all throughout the draft. Every season a stud pitcher emerges off of the wire.
1. Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers—Over the last three years, Kershaw has a 2.56 ERA, and he has averaged 16 wins and 230 strikeouts per season. You couple those numbers with his age (he's just 24 years old) and you have a bona fide ace for many years.
Projection: 17 W, 2.60 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 215 K
2. Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers—Verlander is just as dominant as Kershaw, and you can easily make the argument that he should be the first pitcher taken. He's a horse, and you can certainly depend on him. He has averaged 19 wins and 244 strikeouts over the last four seasons.
Projection: 18 W, 2.90 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 220 K
3. Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals—There are no restrictions for Strasburg this season, so he'll be in contention for the Cy Young. His 11.13 K/9 last year was downright filthy, and he'll challenge both Verlander and Kershaw to be strikeout king. Expect Strasburg to go off in 2013.
Projection: 16 W, 2.85 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 230 K
4. Cliff Lee, Philadelphia Phillies—Take the six wins Lee won last season, and throw them out of the memory bank. Other than his low win total, Lee pitched like an ace. He posted a 3.13 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 207 strikeouts. The wins were a fluke. He averaged 16 wins per season from 2008-2011.
Projection: 15 W, 3.00 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 200 K
5. Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners—Hernandez is a perennial Cy Young contender. He has eclipsed the 15-win mark just once in his career, but he has the dreadful M's offense to blame for that. King Felix certainly makes up for it in other departments.
Projection: 14 W, 3.05 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 210 K
6. Cole Hamels, Philadelphia Phillies—With another dominant season in 2012, Hamels deserves to be lumped into the elite pitcher conversation. During the last three seasons, Hamels has averaged 14 wins with 207 strikeouts while never having an ERA above 3.10.
Projection: 14 W, 3.10 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 205 K
7. David Price, Tampa Bay Rays—After a rocky rookie season, Price has delivered on all the hype that surrounded him coming out of college. During the last three seasons, he has a 2.93 ERA while averaging 17 wins and 204 strikeouts per season.
Projection: 15 W, 3.15 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 195 K
8. Matt Cain, San Francisco Giants—Cain produced a masterful season last year. He went 16-5 with a 2.79 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and 7.92 K/9 rate. With the jump in strikeouts, he finds himself in the top 10 to start 2013. He plays in a pitcher-friendly stadium on a championship team; a very good combo.
Projection: 15 W, 3.00 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 180 K
9. Jered Weaver, Los Angeles Angels—You might be thinking this is a little low for a guy who won 20 games with a 2.81 ERA last season, but those numbers are a little misleading. His FIP was 3.75 and the speed of his fastball has declined in each of the last three years.
Projection: 15 W, 3.20 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 175 K
10. Zack Greinke, Los Angeles Dodgers—Greinke's decision to join the Dodgers should ultimately pay off for fantasy owners. He pitches better in the NL than he does in the AL (who doesn't though?). His ERA is 3.67 and K/9 is 9.9 in the NL, whereas he's at 3.80 and 7.6 respectively in the AL.
Projection: 14 W, 3.25 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 200 K
Craig Kimbrel is a difference-maker at the closer spot.
Relief pitchers are normally a dime a dozen, but there a couple of elite options at the top. They might be worth taking early, but I normally recommend waiting for a closer.
1. Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves—He's the guy you might want to reach for. He's like a hidden ace. He's saved 88 games with 243 strikeouts over the last two seasons.
Projection: 40 SV, 1.65 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 115 K
2. Jonathan Papelbon , Philadelphia Phillies—He's saved fewer than 36 games just once in the last five years. The Phillies' starting pitchers should give Pabelpon plenty of save chances.
Projection: 35 SV, 2.60 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 80 K
3. Jason Motte, St. Louis Cardinals—Motte earned the closer role after his 2011 postseason success, and he flourished last year. He has the great tools to be an excellent closer option.
Projection: 35 SV, 2.80 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 70 K
4. Mariano Rivera, New York Yankees—Rivera is 43 years old, but he's the greatest closer of all time. A healthy Mo is always a wise pick, regardless of age.
Projection: 35 SV, 2.85 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 55 K
5. Sergio Romo, San Francisco Giants—Romo became a star for the Giants with his postseason heroics last year, but he's been one of the best setup men in the game for the last few years. He showed he can handle the ninth.
Projection: 30 SV, 2.35 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 70 K
6. J.J. Putz, Arizona Diamondbacks—Over the last two years, Putz has averaged 38 saves per season while keeping his ERA below 2.85. He is now a reliable closer pick.
Projection: 35 SV, 2.85 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 70 K
7. Huston Street, San Diego Padres—Street was lights out last year when he was healthy. He only pitched 39 innings, but you cannot ignore his 1.85 ERA, 0.72 WHIP and 10.85 K/9.
Projection: 30 SV, 2.75 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 60 K
8. Joe Nathan, Texas Rangers—Nathan had a terrific bounce-back season last year, when he saved 37 games. Nathan, like Rivera, is getting older, but he can still get the job done effectively.
Projection: 35 SV, 2.95 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 70 K
9. Rafael Soriano, Washington Nationals—Soriano came up big for the Yankees when Rivera went down last year. He reminded everyone that he has the stuff to still be a good closer.
Projection: 30 SV, 3.00 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 65 K
10. Rafael Betancourt, Colorado Rockies—Betancourt saved 31 games with a 2.81 ERA in his first full season as closer last year. Despite the Rockies' woes, he'll still get a his fair share of opportunities.
Projection: 35 SV, 3.25 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 75 K