It’s never too early to start planning for next season. (Especially for those of you already out of playoff contention.)
If you are already mathematically eliminated from your league, it might be time to try to grab some valuable keepers for next year.
Here are the top 10 hitters for 2012 and beyond.
1. Albert Pujols, 1B, St. Louis Cardinals
Pujols has been hot lately and is finally starting to put up the numbers we expect from him.
There is no player in the majors who is more consistent than Pujols, and he still has a lot left in the tank. Plus, he’ll be even more valuable next season if he plays enough at the spot to earn third base eligibility.
2. Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Colorado Rockies
Tulowitzki has taken over for Hanley Ramirez as the best shortstop in the game, although it is certainly possible for HanRam to return from his injury in a big way and earn his way back onto the list.
But for now, the top shortstop is Tulo—he hits for power and has a little bit of speed to go along with it.
3. Jose Bautista, 3B/OF, Toronto Blue Jays
Right now, Bautista is the best hitter in baseball. He mashes home runs, drives in runs, and is hitting a whopping .343.
The only thing keeping him at No. 3 on this list is consistency—if Bautista is able to replicate these numbers in 2012, he could possibly move into the No. 1 spot for 2013.
4. Ryan Braun, OF, Milwaukee Brewers
Braun is a guy who is able to combine power, average, and speed. As of right now, he is hitting .309 with 14 home runs, 47 RBI, and 14 stolen bases.
And, he’s just now entering the prime years of his career.
He could produce at this level for five or six more years. If he does, you’ll definitely want him on your team.
5. Jay Bruce, OF, Cincinnati Reds
While Braun is entering the prime of his career, Bruce hasn’t yet realized his full potential, but is still hitting .295 with 17 home runs and 47 RBI.
Next year he should be even better.
And the year after that, even better.
You get the idea.
6. Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Detroit Tigers
Cabrera is a guy who consistently flirts with the triple crown.
That’s the sort of player that makes fantasy owners drool.
He’s capable of posting lines of .320/40/120 every single season, and that makes him one of the best players in the game right now.
7. Joey Votto, 1B, Cincinnati Reds
Speaking of the triple crown, Votto is another guy who combines power, average, and production at the plate. He’s another young guy who, along with Bruce, should help the Reds be competitive in the NL Central for years to come.
8. Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, Boston Red Sox
Ellsbury is a unique player—he hits for power (7 HR 32 RBI in 2011), average (.316) and steals bases (24). The power numbers are outstanding for a leadoff batter, and he’s one of the fastest guys in the league. He'll help out your fantasy team in every offensive aspect.
9. Robinson Cano, 2B, New York Yankees
Cano is the best second baseman in the league.
That alone makes him very valuable, since second base is not a very deep position right now.
Plus, being a left-handed hitter in the new Yankee Stadium is always a good thing—it certainly boosts Cano’s power numbers (12 HR 40 RBI in 2011).
10. Matt Kemp, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
Kemp is the highest-rated player in Yahoo! Fantasy Baseball leagues, and for good reason.
He’s hitting .332, has 19 home runs and 54 RBI, and has even stolen 14 bases.
But, he’s hitting 40 points above his career average, and I’m not quite convinced of his desire to be the best, especially after the very disappointing season he had last year, during which he looked disinterested at times.
If his desire and work ethic have changed, he’ll skyrocket up this list in the near future.
Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, Carlos Gonzalez, Curtis Granderson