Fantasy Baseball 2017: Position-by-Position Rankings
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.
|Rank||Player (Secondary Position)||Team|
|1.||Buster Posey (1B)||SF|
|4.||Willson Contreras (OF)||CHC|
|6.||Evan Gattis (OF)||HOU|
|9.||Brian McCann (1B)||HOU|
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.
|7.||Daniel Murphy (2B)||WAS|
|8.||Matt Carpenter (2B/3B)||STL|
|10.||Ian Desmond (OF)||COL|
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.
|2.||Trea Turner (SS/OF)||WAS|
|3.||Daniel Murphy (1B/3B)||WAS|
|11.||Matt Carpenter (1B/3B)||STL|
|13.||Jean Segura (SS)||SEA|
|14.||Jonathan Villar (3B)||MIL|
|15.||Ben Zobrist (OF)||CHC|
|19.||Brandon Drury (3B/OF)||ARI|
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.
|3.||Kris Bryant (OF)||CHC|
|4.||Manny Machado (SS)||BAL|
|6.||Matt Carpenter (1B/2B)||STL|
|10.||Jonathan Villar (2B)||MIL|
|11.||Jose Ramirez (OF)||CLE|
|16.||Miguel Sano (OF)||MIN|
|20.||Jung Ho Kang||PIT|
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.
|1.||Manny Machado (3B)||BAL|
|8.||Jonathan Villar (2B/3B)||MIL|
|9.||Jean Segura (2B)||SEA|
|12.||Brad Miller (1B)||TB|
|17.||Eduardo Nunez (2B/3B)||SF|
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.
|3.||Kris Bryant (3B)||CHC|
|5.||Trea Turner (SS)||WAS|
|18.||Ian Desmond (1B)||COL|
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:
|April to July||.241||.719||34 (15)||43||35/107|
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.
|28.||Jackie Bradley Jr.||BOS|
|35.||Ben Zobrist (2B)||CHC|
|38.||Miguel Sano (3B)||MIN|
|39.||Jose Ramirez (3B)||CLE|
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)
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)
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.
|13.||Seung Hwan Oh||STL|
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.
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