Fantasy Baseball

2016 MLB Fantasy Preview: Top 10 Players to Draft at Each Position

Joel ReuterFeatured ColumnistJanuary 10, 2016

2016 MLB Fantasy Preview: Top 10 Players to Draft at Each Position

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    The start of spring training is still several weeks away, but it's never too soon to start planning for this year's fantasy baseball draft.

    With that in mind, ahead you'll find a preliminary look at the top 10 fantasy options at each position for the upcoming season.

    A few things to consider:

    • Rankings are based on 10- or 12-team mixed leagues with standard five-by-five rotisserie scoring (BA, R, HR, RBI, SB for hitters; W, ERA, WHIP, K, SV for pitchers).
    • To be eligible at a particular position, players either must have played at least 20 games there in 2015 or be in line to start there in 2016.

    So with that established, let's start things off with catchers...

Catchers

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    Buster Posey
    Buster PoseyMatt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

    Top 10 Catchers 

    NamePosBAHRRBIRSB
    1. Buster Posey, SFC/1B.3181995742
    2. Kyle Schwarber, CHC C/OF.2461643523
    3. Brian McCann, NYY C.2322694680
    4. Russell Martin, TORC.2402377764
    5. Travis d'Arnaud, NYM C.2681241310
    6. Salvador Perez, KCC.2602170521
    7. Jonathan Lucroy, MILC.264743511
    8. Devin Mesoraco, CIN C.1780221
    9. Stephen Vogt, OAKC.2611871580
    10. Derek Norris, SDC.2511462654

    Others Considered: Welington Castillo (ARI), Francisco Cervelli (PIT), Yan Gomes (CLE), Yasmani Grandal (LAD), Wilson Ramos (WAS), J.T. Realmuto (MIA), Matt Wieters (BAL)

     

    Best Average: Buster Posey, SF

    Posey is a career .310 hitter who has never batted below .284 in a full season. He's the elite offensive player at the position and is more than capable of another run at a batting title.

     

    Best Power: Kyle Schwarber, CHC

    Schwarber suited up for 21 games last season, so he'll be eligible at the catcher position. He launched 21 home runs in 259 at-bats, including the playoffs. Even with his struggles against left-handed pitching (.143 BA, .481 OPS), he should be able to eclipse the 30-homer mark in 2016.

     

    Best Speed: J.T. Realmuto, MIA

    Stolen bases are nothing more than a bonus at the catcher position, as there is no Jason Kendall in the league these days. Realmuto led the position with eight steals last year, and he had 18 thefts in the minors in 2014, so he's the safest bet to reach double digits.

     

    Breakout Candidate: Travis d'Arnaud, NYM

    Staying healthy is the big hurdle for d'Arnaud, and if he can do that, he'll be one of the breakout stars of 2016. The 26-year-old had 12 home runs and 41 RBI in just 67 games last season, and he has legitimate 30-homer potential.

     

    Bust Candidate: Stephen Vogt, OAK

    Vogt finished the 2015 season with 18 home runs and 71 RBI, but he hit just .217 with four home runs and 15 RBI in the second half. Let someone else draft him too early on the strength of his full-season numbers.

First Basemen

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    Paul Goldschmidt
    Paul GoldschmidtMatt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

    Top 10 First Basemen

    NamePosBAHRRBIRSB
    1. Paul Goldschmidt, ARI1B.3213311010321
    2. Anthony Rizzo, CHC 1B.278311019417
    3. Miguel Cabrera, DET 1B.3381876641
    4. Buster Posey, SFC/1B.3181995742
    5. Edwin Encarnacion, TOR1B.27739111943
    6. Joey Votto, CIN 1B.31429809511
    7. Chris Davis, FA1B/OF.262471171002
    8. Jose Abreu, CWS 1B.29030101880
    9. Prince Fielder, TEX1B.3052398780
    10. Adrian Gonzalez, LAD1B.2752890760

    Others Considered: Brandon Belt (SF), Freddie Freeman (ATL), Eric Hosmer (KC), Mark Teixeira (NYY)

     

    Best Average: Miguel Cabrera, DET

    Cabrera missed time with a calf strain and wound up playing just 119 games in 2015, but when he was on the field, he was once again arguably the best hitter in baseball. The 32-year-old is a career .321 hitter, and he took home his fourth batting title this past season.

     

    Best Power: Chris Davis, FA

    After a disappointing 2014 season, Davis proved his 54-homer outburst in 2013 was no fluke by again leading the American League in home runs this past season with 47. Where he winds up landing in free agency will impact his overall value, but he's the elite power threat at the position regardless of what jersey he's wearing.

     

    Best Speed: Paul Goldschmidt, ARI

    With 21 stolen bases last season, Goldschmidt became the first player since Derrek Lee to post a 20-20 season as a first baseman. He's not overly fast by any means, but he's a terrific baserunner, and he should continue to surprise with his stolen base total.

     

    Breakout Candidate: Wil Myers, SD

    A move from center field to first base should allow Myers to focus on his offensive game, which looked incredibly bright when he slugged 13 home runs in 335 at-bats as a rookie in 2013. However, he has stalled the past two seasons due in large part to injury.

     

    Bust Candidate: Freddie Freeman, ATL

    A lack of protection hurt Freeman last season, and while the Braves have added stronger hitters in Ender Inciarte and Erick Aybar, there's still no reason to give Freeman anything to hit with runners in scoring position.

Second Basemen

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    Jose Altuve
    Jose AltuveBruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

    Top 10 Second Basemen

    NamePosBAHRRBIRSB
    1. Jose Altuve, HOU 2B.31415668638
    2. Dee Gordon, MIA2B.3334468858
    3. Brian Dozier, MIN2B.236287710112
    4. Robinson Cano, SEA2B.2872179822
    5. Anthony Rendon, WAS2B/3B.264525431
    6. Ben Zobrist, CHC 2B/OF.2761356763
    7. Rougned Odor, TEX2B.2611661546
    8. Ian Kinsler, DET 2B.29611739410
    9. Jason Kipnis, CLE 2B.3039528612
    10. Kolten Wong, STL 2B.26211617115

    Others Considered: Logan Forsythe (TB), Howie Kendrick (FA), DJ LeMahieu (COL), Daniel Murphy (WAS), Joe Panik (SF), Brandon Phillips (CIN), Neil Walker (NYM)

     

    Best Average: Jose Altuve, HOU

    Even with his speed, Dee Gordon probably won't be able to sustain a .383 BABIP this coming season, so expect his average to come back to earth a bit. Jose Altuve, on the other hand, is essentially a lock to hit .300 for a third straight season, and with a 9.7 percent strikeout rate, he may be the best contact hitter in the game.

     

    Best Power: Robinson Cano, SEA

    Brian Dozier has led the second base position in home runs in each of the past two seasons, but Robinson Cano is still the pick here. His power has dried up a bit since joining the Mariners, but 15 second-half bombs last year could be a sign of big things to come in 2016.

     

    Best Speed: Dee Gordon, MIA

    His success rate leaves something to be desired, as he was caught stealing a league-high 20 times last year, but Dee Gordon was also successful 58 times to lead the NL in thefts for the second straight season. Even if his batting average dips, he's still a solid bet for 50 steals.

     

    Breakout Candidate: Rougned Odor, TEX

    An early demotion to the minors proved to be a turning point for Rougned Odor, as he returned to the majors on June 15 and went on to hit .292 with 15 home runs and 52 RBI the rest of the way. That strong finish coupled with a terrific postseason makes him an obvious breakout candidate.

     

    Bust Candidate: Daniel Murphy, WAS

    Daniel Murphy is a terrific hitter who should once again be good for double-digit home runs and an average north of .280, but he's bound to be overvalued by someone after his epic postseason. Make sure that someone isn't you. 

Third Basemen

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    Josh Donaldson
    Josh DonaldsonNick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

    Top 10 Third Basemen

    NamePosBAHRRBIRSB
    1. Manny Machado, BAL 3B.286358610220
    2. Josh Donaldson, TOR3B.297411231226
    3. Nolan Arenado, COL3B.28742130972
    4. Kris Bryant, CHC 3B.27526998713
    5. Todd Frazier, CWS 3B.25535898213
    6. Anthony Rendon, WAS2B/3B.264525431
    7. Matt Carpenter, STL 3B.27228841014
    8. Maikel Franco, PHI3B.2801450451
    9. Kyle Seager, SEA3B.2662674856
    10. Adrian Beltre, TEX3B.2871883831

    Others Considered: Matt Duffy (SF), Evan Longoria (TB), Mike Moustakas (KC), David Wright (NYM)

     

    Best Average: Adrian Beltre, TEX

    A wrist injury sapped Adrian Beltre of some of his power last season, but he still managed to hit .280, and that included a .318 average in the second half. All told, he's put together a .309/.358/.514 line in five seasons with the Rangers, and even at 36 years old, he's a solid bet to hit .300, especially now that he's healthy.

     

    Best Power: Josh Donaldson, TOR

    Nolan Arenado, Kris Bryant, Todd Frazier and Manny Machado are all safe bets to top 30 home runs, and a full season from Maikel Franco could quickly add him to that list. Donaldson gets the nod here, though, thanks to the protection around him in the lineup and the free-swinging mentality employed in Toronto.

     

    Best Speed: Manny Machado, BAL

    The reason Manny Machado earns the top spot in the third base rankings is his all-around game, as he was the only 20-20 player at the position last year. A healthy Josh Harrison is really the only player capable of giving him a run for his money as the top speed option among third basemen.

     

    Breakout Candidate: Maikel Franco, PHI

    We mentioned him briefly above, but look out for Maikel Franco this season as he looks to build off of a terrific rookie season that saw him hit .280 and belt 14 home runs in 304 at-bats before a wrist injury cost him two months. The 23-year-old has all the makings of a perennial 30-homer threat.

     

    Bust Candidate: Matt Duffy, SF

    Matt Duffy stepped up in a big way for the Giants last season, and he should again be a solid contributor in what is quietly one of the best lineups in baseball. That said, he'll likely be hitting lower in the order this year now that everyone is healthy, and his 4.9 percent walk rate is a red flag.

Shortstops

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    Carlos Correa
    Carlos CorreaKelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

    Top 10 Shortstops

    NamePosBAHRRBIRSB
    1. Carlos Correa, HOUSS.27922685214
    2. Xander Bogaerts, BOSSS.3207818410
    3. Troy Tulowitzki, TORSS.2801770771
    4. Corey Seager, LADSS.337417172
    5. Francisco Lindor, CLESS.31312515012
    6. Jose Reyes, COLSS.2747535724
    7. Brandon Crawford, SFSS.2562184656
    8. Ian Desmond, FASS.23319626913
    9. Jung Ho Kang, PITSS/3B.2871558605
    10. Jhonny Peralta, STLSS.2751771641

    Others Considered: Elvis Andrus (TEX), Addison Russell (CHC), Marcus Semien (OAK)

     

    Best Average: Xander Bogaerts, BOS

    After a relatively disappointing rookie season, Xander Bogaerts took a huge step forward last year and in the process raised his average from .240 to .320, which was good for second in the American League. He'll become that much more valuable once his power develops.

     

    Best Power: Troy Tulowitzki, TOR

    Provided he stays healthy, which is as big of a question mark as any in baseball, Troy Tulowitzki remains a legitimate 30-homer threat. It won't be long before Carlos Correa overtakes him here, and that may very well happen in 2016, but for now, the hypothetical healthy Tulowitzki is still the top power threat at shortstop.

     

    Best Speed: Jose Reyes, COL

    He's not a 50-steal threat anymore, and his health is also a significant question mark, but Jose Reyes should still be good for 30-plus thefts, and he could run more with a full season back in the National League. Jean Segura and Elvis Andrus are also solid speed options, but they don't provide much in the other four categories.

     

    Breakout Candidate: Corey Seager, LAD

    Corey Seager made a splash in his brief debut last season, and while he probably won't hit .330 over a full season, his offensive game is for real, and he should immediately become one of the best at the position. A .280 average with 15 home runs and 80 runs scored might be his floor.

     

    Bust Candidate: Jung Ho Kang, PIT

    The Pirates found a diamond in the rough when they decided to take a chance on Jung Ho Kang, and his defensive versatility only adds to his value in fantasy. However, he's coming back from a serious knee injury, and even if he is ready for the start of the season, which seems like a long shot, it will likely take him some time to round back into form.

Outfielders

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    Bryce Harper
    Bryce HarperBrad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

    Top 10 Outfielders

    NamePosBAHRRBIRSB
    1. Bryce Harper, WASOF.33042991186
    2. Mike Trout, LAA OF.299419010411
    3. A.J. Pollock, ARIOF.315207611139
    4. Jose Bautista, TOROF.250401141088
    5. Nelson Cruz, SEAOF.3024493903
    6. Yoenis Cespedes, FAOF.291351051017
    7. Chris Davis, FA1B/OF.262471171002
    8. Giancarlo Stanton, MIAOF.2652767474
    9. Andrew McCutchen, PITOF.29223969111
    10. J.D. Martinez, DET OF.28238102933

    Others Considered: Mookie Betts (BOS), Charlie Blackmon (COL), Ryan Braun (MIL), Lorenzo Cain (KC), Carlos Gonzalez (COL), Adam Jones (BAL), Starling Marte (PIT), George Springer (HOU), Justin Upton (FA)

     

    Best Average: Bryce Harper, WAS

    The biggest change for Bryce Harper in what turned out to be an MVP season in 2015 was a significantly more patient approach, as his walk rate climbed from 9.6 percent to 19.0 percent. He picks his pitch and crushes it, and that should mean plenty more batting averages north of .300.

     

    Best Power: Giancarlo Stanton, MIA

    Bryce Harper and Mike Trout have yet to reach their peak despite the fact they both topped the 40-homer mark last season. Jose Bautista, Nelson Cruz and Chris Davis, who also has outfield eligibility, are all safe bets to eclipse that mark once again, as well. However, a healthy Giancarlo Stanton is still the most dangerous hitter in the game, and if anyone is going to make a run at 50 long balls, it's him.

     

    Best Speed: Billy Hamilton, CIN

    Even with a .226 average and .274 on-base percentage, Billy Hamilton managed to steal 57 bases last season. If he can find a way to hit .250, he'd be a legitimate threat for 75 stolen bases.

     

    Breakout Candidate: Jarrod Dyson, KC

    He may not be a breakout star in real baseball terms, but as a fantasy option, Jarrod Dyson is someone to target. He swiped 26 bases last season despite tallying just 200 at-bats, and now that he's set to move into an everyday role, he could see that total double.

     

    Bust Candidate: Gerardo Parra, FA

    Depending on where he signs, Gerardo Parra could find himself in a good position to score runs at or near the top of someone's lineup. He had the best season of his career last year, but his .237/.268/.357 line after being traded to Baltimore is a good sign he was playing over his head.

Starting Pitchers

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    Clayton Kershaw
    Clayton KershawJayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

    Top 10 Starting Pitchers

    NamePosWERAWHIPKSV
    1. Clayton Kershaw ,LADSP162.130.8813010
    2. Jake Arrieta, CHC SP221.770.8652360
    3. Max Scherzer, WASSP142.790.9182760
    4. David Price, BOS SP182.451.0762250
    5. Chris Sale, CWS SP133.411.0882740
    6. Madison Bumgarner, SFSP182.931.0082340
    7. Jacob deGrom, NYM SP142.540.9792050
    8. Gerrit Cole, PITSP192.601.0912020
    9. Corey Kluber, CLE SP93.491.0542450
    10. Zack Greinke, ARISP191.660.8442000

    Others Considered: Chris Archer (TB), Carlos Carrasco (CLE), Jose Fernandez (MIA), Sonny Gray (OAK), Matt Harvey (NYM), Felix Hernandez (SEA), Dallas Keuchel (HOU), Stephen Strasburg (WAS)

     

    Notes

    With so many terrific starting pitchers around the league today, trimming this list down to just 10 was borderline impossible.

    That being said, Clayton Kershaw is still an easy choice to be the first pitcher off the board, as he took a backseat to Zack Greinke this past season but was still brilliant.

    Max Scherzer and Chris Sale are the other elite strikeout options, who figure to once again top the 200-strikeout mark.

    Jose Fernandez and Matt Harvey could both shoot into the top 10 another year removed from Tommy John surgery, so don't read too much into either of them being ranked outside the top 10. Simply a matter of preference.

    Someone worth buying low, though he likely won't fall too far, is Stephen Strasburg.

    He struggled at times in 2015 and dealt with injuries, but he closed out the year at 3-1 with a 1.24 ERA and 57 strikeouts in 36.1 innings in five September starts. That strong finish coupled with the fact that he's in a contract year makes him one to watch.

    As for rookies, don't hesitate to snatch up Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander Tyler Glasnow once he gets the call, which should be at some point this coming season.

    The 22-year-old has dominated every step of the way in the minors, posting a 2.07 ERA and striking out 501 batters in 383.1 innings.

Relief Pitchers

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    Wade Davis
    Wade DavisJohn Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

    Top 10 Relief Pitchers

    NamePosWERAWHIPKSV
    1. Wade Davis, KCRP80.940.7877817
    2. Craig Kimbrel, BOS RP42.581.0458739
    3. Aroldis Chapman, NYY RP41.631.14611633
    4. Kenley Jansen, LADRP22.410.7838036
    5. Jeurys Familia, NYM RP21.851.0008643
    6. Roberto Osuna, TORRP12.580.9197520
    7. Trevor Rosenthal, STL RP22.101.2678348
    8. Mark Melancon, PITRP32.230.9266251
    9. Ken Giles, HOU RP61.801.2008715
    10. Hector Rondon, CHC RP61.671.0006930

    Others Considered: Cody Allen (CLE), Dellin Betances (NYY), Zach Britton (BAL), Andrew Miller (NYY), Glen Perkins (MIN), A.J. Ramos (MIA), David Robertson (CWS), Francisco Rodriguez (DET), Huston Street (LAA), Shawn Tolleson (TEX)

     

    Notes

    Now that Greg Holland is no longer in the picture, Wade Davis has a chance to be the game's elite fantasy closer this coming season, despite the fact that he doesn't quite strike guys out at the same rate as Aroldis Chapman or Craig Kimbrel.

    Young guys like Roberto Osuna, Jeurys Familia and Ken Giles represent the future at the position, and all three should be elite options, as they close for contending teams and should see plenty of save chances.

    The addition of Chapman to the back end of the Yankees bullpen hurts the value of Andrew Miller, but he and Dellin Betances both still have value, as they'll help in ERA and strikeouts.

    Hector Rondon is not the first name that comes to mind when you think dominant closer, but after a brief hiccup in May, he closed out the season with a 0.88 ERA, 9.0 strikeouts per nine innings and 21 saves in 22 chances.

    As always, injuries and ineffectiveness will open the door for unexpected contributors throughout the season, as this remains the easiest area to address in-season.

     

    All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com, unless otherwise noted.

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