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Fantasy Baseball 2017: Position-by-Position Rankings

Rick WeinerFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 14, 2017

Fantasy Baseball 2017: Position-by-Position Rankings

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    Four names you should know: Jose, Mike, Miguel and Xander.
    Four names you should know: Jose, Mike, Miguel and Xander.Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

    It's time to start preparing for the upcoming fantasy baseball season.

    Sure, most drafts are still at least a month away. But nobody wants to be caught unprepared, forced to rely on the preset rankings supplied by whatever site your league uses, manically flipping printouts as you search for a worthy selection while the clock runs out on you.

    On the pages that follow, we'll delve into the top 20 players at every position (top 40 for outfielders and starting pitchers), identifying at least one player at each position who just missed the cut but should remain firmly on your radar.

    These rankings are based on a standard, five-by-five mixed rotisserie league. While they're applicable in other types of leagues, you'll have to adjust the rankings based on the scoring system you'll be playing under.

    Let's get started.

Catcher

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    Gary Sanchez
    Gary SanchezJim McIsaac/Getty Images
    RankPlayer (Secondary Position)Team
    1.Buster Posey (1B)SF
    2.Gary SanchezNYY
    3.Jonathan LucroyTEX
    4.Willson Contreras (OF)CHC
    5.J.T. RealmutoMIA
    6.Evan Gattis (OF)HOU
    7.Yasmani GrandalLAD
    8.Salvador PerezKC
    9.Brian McCann (1B)HOU
    10.Russell MartinTOR
    11.Welington CastilloBAL
    12.Yadier MolinaSTL
    13.Matt WietersFA
    14.Stephen VogtOAK
    15.Francisco CervelliPIT
    16.Cameron RuppPHI
    17.Tom MurphyCOL
    18.Derek NorrisWAS
    19.Mike ZuninoSEA
    20.Wilson RamosTB

            

    Overview

    No, you won't find Kyle Schwarber's name on this list, and for good reason—the Chicago Cubs slugger only played the outfield in his injury-shortened 2016 season. He no longer qualifies as a catcher, and it's unlikely he'll spend any time behind the plate in 2017.

    A big reason for that is the presence of Willson Contreras, who along with Gary Sanchez has tremendous upside and figures to put up impressive numbers in his first full season in the majors.

    Speaking of catchers whose names start with the letter "W," Welington Castillo's power figures to get a nice bump now that he's playing half his games in Baltimore. That puts him ahead of the player he's replacing, Matt Wieters, who is still searching for a new home.

    Normally, Wilson Ramos would be ranked far higher than 20th, as he's one of the few catchers who can provide value across multiple categories. But he's still working his way back from a torn ACL that ended his season in September. He may not be ready to contribute until May or June, if not later.

                

    One to Watch: Devin Mesoraco, Cincinnati Reds

    A slew of injuries limited Devin Mesoraco to just 39 games over the past two seasons, making it easy to forget all about his breakout 2014, when he hit .273 with 25 home runs, 80 RBI and an .893 OPS. But the 28-year-old is healthy and hellbent on proving he's capable of putting up big numbers once again.

    There's immense risk in taking him, but there's a potentially high reward if he can stay on the field.

First Base

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    Freddie Freeman
    Freddie FreemanJim McIsaac/Getty Images
    RankPlayerTeam
    1.Paul GoldschmidtARI
    2.Anthony RizzoCHC
    3.Miguel CabreraDET
    4.Joey VottoCIN
    5.Freddie FreemanATL
    6.Edwin EncarnacionCLE
    7.Daniel Murphy (2B)WAS
    8.Matt Carpenter (2B/3B)STL
    9.Jose AbreuCHW
    10.Ian Desmond (OF)COL
    11.Wil MyersSD
    12.Eric HosmerKC
    13.Hanley RamirezBOS
    14.Chris DavisBAL
    15.Brandon BeltSF
    16.Carlos SantanaCLE
    17.Albert PujolsLAA
    18.Adrian GonzalezLAD
    19.Brad MillerTB
    20.Justin BourMIA

           

    Overview

    There's a deep pool of quality first basemen to choose from this year, with every player in our top 10 a candidate to build your offense around.

    Ian Desmond may not have first base eligibility right away, but assuming Colorado sticks with its plan of converting the shortstop-turned-outfielder into a first baseman, he'll pick it up heading into the second week of the season.

            

    One To Watch: Greg Bird, New York Yankees

    After missing all of 2016 due to shoulder surgery, Greg Bird is back and the favorite to replace the retired Mark Teixeira at first base in the Bronx. He has a swing that's tailor-made for Yankee Stadium and put up big numbers (.261 BA, 11 HR, 31 RBI, .871 OPS) in just 46 games down the stretch in 2015.

Second Base

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    Jose Altuve
    Jose AltuveBrandon Wade/Getty Images
    RankPlayerTeam
    1.Jose AltuveHOU
    2.Trea Turner (SS/OF)WAS
    3.Daniel Murphy (1B/3B)WAS
    4.Robinson CanoSEA
    5.Brian DozierMIN
    6.Rougned OdorTEX
    7.Ian KinslerDET
    8.Dee GordonMIA
    9.DJ LeMahieuCOL
    10.Jason KipnisCLE
    11.Matt Carpenter (1B/3B)STL
    12.Dustin PedroiaBOS
    13.Jean Segura (SS)SEA
    14.Jonathan Villar (3B)MIL
    15.Ben Zobrist (OF)CHC
    16.Logan ForsytheTB
    17.Jonathan SchoopBAL
    18.Starlin CastroNYY
    19.Brandon Drury (3B/OF)ARI
    20.Cesar HernandezPHI

             

    Overview

    How deep is second base in fantasy this year? Jean Segura hit .319 with 20 home runs, 33 stolen bases and a National League-leading 203 hits—and he couldn't crack our top 10. You could rest comfortably knowing you had any of these guys holding things down at second base.

            

    One To Watch: Javier Baez, Chicago Cubs

    The only reason Javier Baez doesn't crack the top 20 at second base (or at any position) is because we don't know how the Cubs are going to use him. Will he be the team's everyday second baseman, or will manager Joe Maddon deploy him as a super-utility player once again?

    Baez's upside makes him a worthy selection late in drafts as it is, but if his role becomes more defined, he's a player you can take confidently in the middle rounds of your draft.

Third Base

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    Kris Bryant
    Kris BryantEzra Shaw/Getty Images
    RankPlayerTeam
    1.Josh DonaldsonTOR
    2.Nolan ArenadoCOL
    3.Kris Bryant (OF)CHC
    4.Manny Machado (SS)BAL
    5.Kyle SeagerSEA
    6.Matt Carpenter (1B/2B)STL
    7.Adrian BeltreTEX
    8.Evan LongoriaTB
    9.Todd FrazierCHW
    10.Jonathan Villar (2B)MIL
    11.Jose Ramirez (OF)CLE
    12.Anthony RendonWAS
    13.Justin TurnerLAD
    14.Alex BregmanHOU
    15.Jake LambARI
    16.Miguel Sano (OF)MIN
    17.Maikel FrancoPHI
    18.Eduardo NunezSF
    19.Ryon HealyOAK
    20.Jung Ho KangPIT

           

    Overview

    I gave serious thought to ranking all four of the elite third basemen—Nolan Arenado, Kris Bryant, Josh Donaldson and Manny Machado—as the No. 1 choice at the position, but that seemed like the easy way out. That said, you can't go wrong taking any of them in the first round: They're all worthy.

    The only real risk at the position lies at the end of our top 20. Maikel Franco and Miguel Sano need to take the next step in their development, while Eduardo Nunez is no lock to replicate his production from a career-best season. Jung Ho Kang could be disciplined for his role in an offseason DUI incident, and Ryon Healy could lose his job in Oakland to Trevor Plouffe, who Ken Rosenthal reported Tuesday has signed with the A's.

                      

    One To Watch: Mike Moustakas, Kansas City Royals

    A torn ACL ended Mike Moustakas' 2016 early, but the adjustments he made to deliver a breakout season in 2015 remained in place, evidenced by the 13 extra-base hits (seven home runs) he put on the board in 27 games before getting injured.

    He's become something of an afterthought, but if he's healthy, Moose is worthy of a mid-round selection. A return to—or improvement on—his 2015 form (.284 BA, 22 HR, 82 RBI, .817 OPS) could easily be in the cards this season, which just so happens to be his walk year.

Shortstop

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    Corey Seager
    Corey SeagerDenis Poroy/Getty Images
    RankPlayerTeam
    1.Manny Machado (3B)BAL
    2.Corey SeagerLAD
    3.Carlos CorreaHOU
    4.Francisco LindorCLE
    5.Xander BogaertsBOS
    6.Trea TurnerWAS
    7.Trevor StoryCOL
    8.Jonathan Villar (2B/3B)MIL
    9.Jean Segura (2B)SEA
    10.Aledmys DiazSTL
    11.Addison RussellCHC
    12.Brad Miller (1B)TB
    13.Troy TulowitzkiTOR
    14.Elvis AndrusTEX
    15.Dansby SwansonATL
    16.Didi GregoriusNYY
    17.Eduardo Nunez (2B/3B)SF
    18.Brandon CrawfordSF
    19.Asdrubal CabreraNYM
    20.Marcus SemienOAK

           

    Overview

    Shortstop isn't quite as deep a position as second or third base, but you can find plenty of value through the middle rounds of your draft if you'd prefer to not burn an early pick on one.

    Troy Tulowitzki didn't have a typical Tulo season statistically (that he didn't play in more than 140 games is nothing new), but the former perennial MVP candidate still finished with 24 home runs, 79 RBI and a .761 OPS. That's not horrible, and he can likely be snagged later in most drafts than he should.

                    

    One To Watch: Orlando Arcia, Milwaukee Brewers

    Orlando Arcia didn't do anything to impress at the plate in his first taste of the big leagues, but the 22-year-old remains full of upside and has the potential to be a solid contributor in fantasy this season. While his power is still developing, Arcia could, at the very least, help in batting average and steals.

Outfielders (1-20)

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    Mookie Betts
    Mookie BettsBillie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images
    RankPlayerTeam
    1.Mike TroutLAA
    2.Mookie BettsBOS
    3.Kris Bryant (3B)CHC
    4.Bryce HarperWAS
    5.Trea Turner (SS)WAS
    6.Charlie BlackmonCOL
    7.Starling MartePIT
    8.Christian YelichMIA
    9.Ryan BraunMIL
    10.Giancarlo StantonMIA
    11.Carlos GonzalezCOL
    12.J.D. MartinezDET
    13.Nelson CruzSEA
    14.Andrew McCutchenPIT
    15.Yoenis CespedesNYM
    16.George SpringerHOU
    17.Gregory PolancoPIT
    18.Ian Desmond (1B)COL
    19.A.J. PollockARI
    20.Kyle SchwarberCHC

          

    Overview

    What I wrote last year about our top 20 outfielders holds true this year: "Any player who lands in our top 20 is a fine choice to serve as the anchor of your outfield; he's someone you can insert into your lineup on Opening Day and never have to remove (unless injury forces your hand)."

           

    One To Watch: Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates

    Don't sleep on Andrew McCutchen, for rumors of his demise are exaggerated. He battled multiple injuries early in 2016 that contributed to his career-worst season, and there's no doubt he's going to fall in upcoming drafts. But take a look at how he fared once he was healthy:

    SplitBAOPSXBH (HR)RBIBB/K
    April to July.241.71934 (15)4335/107
    August/September.284.85219 (9)3634/36

    Those are solid numbers. He may never get back to MVP levels of production, but McCutchen can still be a productive member of your fantasy squad.

Outfielders (21-40)

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    Odubel Herrera
    Odubel HerreraRich Schultz/Getty Images
    RankPlayerTeam
    21.Billy HamiltonCIN
    22.Jose BautistaFA
    23.Justin UptonDET
    24.Stephen PiscottySTL
    25.Adam JonesBAL
    26.Matt KempATL
    27.Adam EatonWAS
    28.Jackie Bradley Jr.BOS
    29.Mark TrumboFA
    30.Khris DavisOAK
    31.Andrew BenintendiBOS
    32.Michael BrantleyCLE
    33.Lorenzo CainKC
    34.Marcell OzunaMIA
    35.Ben Zobrist (2B)CHC
    36.David DahlCOL
    37.Odubel HerreraPHI
    38.Miguel Sano (3B)MIN
    39.Jose Ramirez (3B)CLE
    40.Dexter FowlerSTL

           

    Overview

    These aren't the building blocks of your fantasy outfield; rather, they're complementary pieces to someone from the top 20. Whether it's a proven veteran you're looking for or a youngster with upside, there's something for everyone on our second tier of outfield talent.

               

    One To Watch: Ender Inciarte, Atlanta Braves

    He's not a big name, doesn't offer much in the way of power and plays for a rebuilding team. But Ender Inciarte is a multiple-category contributor, offering help in batting average, runs scored and stolen bases without killing your team's OPS.

Starting Pitcher (1-20)

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    Max Scherzer
    Max ScherzerRob Carr/Getty Images
    RankPlayerTeam
    1.Clayton Kershaw LAD
    2.Max Scherzer WAS
    3.Chris SaleBOS
    4.Madison Bumgarner SF
    5.Corey Kluber CLE
    6.Noah Syndergaard NYM
    7.Jon LesterCHC
    8.Jake Arrieta CHC
    9.Justin VerlanderDET
    10.David PriceBOS
    11.Johnny Cueto SF
    12.Carlos Carrasco CLE
    13.Chris ArcherTB
    14.Stephen Strasburg WAS
    15.Jacob deGrom NYM
    16.Carlos MartinezSTL
    17. Yu Darvish TEX
    18. Masahiro Tanaka NYY
    19.Jose QuintanaCHW
    20.Aaron SanchezTOR

             

    Overview

    Every player in our top 20 is a legitimate No. 1 starter for your squad, and depending on how your league values pitching, it's not a bad idea to snag two of these arms in the early part of your draft.

Starting Pitcher (21-40)

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    Gerrit Cole
    Gerrit ColeJustin Berl/Getty Images
    RankPlayerTeam
    21.Zack GreinkeARI
    22.Gerrit ColePIT
    23.Kyle HendricksCHC
    24.Rick PorcelloBOS
    25.Cole HamelsTEX
    26.Kevin GausmanBAL
    27.Kenta MaedaLAD
    28.Michael FulmerDET
    29.Julio TeheranATL
    30.Felix HernandezSEA
    31.Danny DuffyKC
    32.Danny SalazarCLE
    33.Anthony DeSclafaniCIN
    34.Matt HarveyNYM
    35.John LackeyCHC
    36.Tanner RoarkWAS
    37.Drew PomeranzBOS
    38.Marcus StromanTOR
    39.Dallas KeuchelHOU
    40.Rich HillLAD

           

    Overview

    You can still find frontline fantasy starters in this group, though in a perfect world you'll already have at least one hurler from our top 20 plugged into your rotation, giving your squad multiple quality arms to lean on throughout the season.

             

    One To Watch: Sonny Gray, Oakland Athletics

    Seemingly overnight, Sonny Gray went from fantasy stud to stomach-turning dud. One of the game's premier starters in 2015, Gray was downright awful in 2016, pitching to a 5.69 ERA and 1.50 WHIP. If he's healthy and looks to be back on track in spring training, Gray is worth taking a flier on.

Relief Pitchers

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    Zach Britton
    Zach BrittonMatt Hazlett/Getty Images
    RankPlayerTeam
    1.Zach BrittonBAL
    2.Kenley JansenLAD
    3.Aroldis ChapmanNYY
    4.Craig KimbrelBOS
    5.Roberto OsunaTOR
    6.Mark MelanconSF
    7.Edwin DiazSEA
    8.Wade DavisCHC
    9.Ken GilesHOU
    10.Jeurys FamiliaNYM
    11.Andrew MillerCLE
    12.Kelvin HerreraKC
    13.Seung Hwan OhSTL
    14.Alex ColomeTB
    15.Tony WatsonPIT
    16.Dellin BetancesNYY
    17.Cody AllenCLE
    18.Francisco RodriguezDET
    19.David RobertsonCHW
    20.Raisel IglesiasCIN

            

    Overview

    Unless you plan on punting saves and rolling with a starting pitcher that still has reliever eligibility (Kansas City's Danny Duffy and Toronto's Aaron Sanchez are among the arms who could fit that description), you're going to need a closer.

    All but two of the relievers on our top 20 can fill that role for your fantasy squad. As for the two non-closers on the list, both Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller will supply plenty of strikeouts while keeping your ERA and WHIP in check.

    Bear in mind that Jeurys Familia is likely to miss the first month of the season, as he's expected to be suspended for at least 30 games for violating MLB's joint domestic violence policy, per the New York Daily News' Kristie Ackert. That said, Familia is still a top-10 closer when he's eligible to play.

              

    One To Watch: Ryan Madson, Oakland Athletics

    Entering his age-36 season, Ryan Madson isn't the strikeout artist he once was. But the veteran reliever is slated to open the year as Oakland's closer, and if saves are all you're concerned with, he's good for 30 to 35 of them—assuming he doesn't get traded to a contender midseason.

            

    Unless otherwise noted, all statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs.

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