It's true, the 2011 baseball season has not even concluded. A lot of sports fans are forgetting about baseball right now and focusing on the new NFL season and their fantasy football squads. My problem is that I still cannot get baseball out of my mind. With my fantasy baseball season winding down, I am finding myself already thinking about 2012.
When I was figuring out my rankings, I was basing them off of a standard 5 x 5 league. The offensive categories were Batting Average, Home Runs, Runs Batted In, Runs Scored and Stolen Bases. Also, if a player qualified at more than one position, I would rank him at the position that he played most often.
I did not include players that played most of their games at DH, (Michael Young, David Ortiz, Victor Martinez, etc..)
These rankings are very preliminary and are subject to change before the 2012 season. Just a look at how the landscape of each position has the potential to change from year to year and the depth that can be expected at position.
This list was a tough one with a lot of question marks. Will Carlos Santana be able to hit right handed pitching next year? Will Joe Mauer stay healthy? How many games is Jesus Montero going to play at the catcher position? Will Buster Posey come back from his injury and put up the numbers that everyone was expecting?
1. Carlos Santana - .282/25/85/80/6 - Plays more than most catchers since on his off days he goes to first base. Has hit .206 against right handed pitchers in 2011. Should be able to increase this number and take the No. 1 spot.
2. Joe Mauer - .315/15/78/82/4 - Injuries have hurt Mauer's fantasy value. I still believe he stays healthy for the most part and puts up solid numbers.
3. Jesus Montero - .280/25/80/74/1 - As long as he plays the whole year he will be up since his numbers will be bolstered by the line-up around him. Should qualify at C playing the position when Martin has off days.
4. Brian McCann - .278/24/78/70/1 - Consistent as they come, McCann should be a top 5 catcher going into 2012.
5. Buster Posey - .294/21/74/71/5 - Has a change to be a bit higher on this list. With some more offense around him he would really put up some nice stats.
6. Mike Napoli - .273/28/76/72/1
7. Miguel Montero - .279/18/74/77 - Montero is on a young team and has a good chance to move up this list.
8. Alex Avila - .281/17/69/66/3 - Breakout year for Avila in 2011. Look for a slight downgrade in 2012, but should still produce solid numbers.
9. Matt Wieters - .274/20/68/63/1 - I have always loved Wieters, unfortunately I do not think that he has a good enough offense around him to boost his stats.
10. J.P. Arencibia - .260/29/80/65/0 - Big power numbers will put Arencibia in the top 10, low batting average could bring him down. I expect him to raise his .255 BABIP which will in turn most likely raise his batting average.
The first base position has always been deep for fantasy purposes, so it is no surprise to see so many common names in the top-10.
The two big newcomers from a season ago are Eric Hosmer and Michael Morse. Hosmer was a top prospect and proved that he can put up numbers at the big-league level. His athletic ability should allow his to steal more bases, which is an uncommon stat for a first baseman.
Morse was a breakout candidate at the beginning of the year who enjoyed a very productive season. Look for more of the same from him in the middle of a young, maturing Washington offensive line-up.
1. Joey Votto - .317/37/118/110/9 - Votto's power numbers should rise a little bit in 2012 due to his Isolated Power improving slightly. His BABIP is high at .359, but it is close to his career average and does not look likely to change.
2. Albert Pujols - .311/37/119/112/6 - I have Votto barely edging out Pujols in the rankings. The main reason is age and the injuries Pujols suffered through this year. He will be 32 at the beginning of the 2012 season, but really should not slow down too much.
3. Adrian Gonzalez - .313/31/122/111/0 - Adrian Gonzalez was always one of my favorite players, and I never thought that he got the recognition that he deserved. Now, in Boston, I think people are really starting to catch on. I see a dip in average from 2011 due to his enormous .380 BABIP.
4. Miguel Cabrera - .316/30/109/103/4 - Has been very consistent over his major league career, I don't see any reason for it to stop next year.
5. Prince Fielder - .296/34/111/92/0 - Fielder can have hot streaks that rival any player in the league. His power numbers have been a little erratic over the years, but always good. Whether this contract-year proves an aberration remains to be seen. Count on him to easily hit 30+ home runs and 100+ runs batted in with his new team, which should be a World Series contender.
6. Ryan Howard - .262/38/121/94/0 - I think that Howard will always hit for power, but as the years go by his average is going to keep dropping as it has over the past three.
7. Mark Teixiera - .278/33/117/99/2 - His dip in batting average since 2008 is due to an ever-decreasing BABIP. I think that he raises this up next year, but never gets it back to what it was.
8. Eric Hosmer - .291/26/92/84/15 - I watched Hosmer in spring training and absolutely loved the guy. He is athletic and can hit for average and power. His ability to steal bases at the first base position slides him into the top-10.
9. Michael Morse - .303/26/93/82/1 - The Washington Nationals offense is actually pretty impressive, and a major part of their revival is the emergence of Morse.
10. Paul Konerko - .299/28/100/72/0 - I don't know why, but I wanted to keep Konerko off of the top-10. The problem is, when I look at his numbers I think that he has quietly earned the right to be here. Numbers should start declining in the coming years with age.
Second base has a very interesting group. A lot of young players are looking to make their mark at this position in 2012.
The top two guys on my list (Cano and Pedroia) are extremely consistent and should put up big numbers.
The rest of the list has a lot of question marks because of age and injuries. Two names that have been on this list every year but were left of are Brandon Phillips and Chase Utley. Phillips has been steadily declining with his power numbers and increasing his BABIP, which could come back down next season. Utley just does not play enough. He played in only 115 games in 2010 and is going to be around 100 games played for 2011.
1. Robinson Cano - .324/28/110/107/6 - I really think that Cano is one of the best pure hitters in baseball. He will continue to be consistent and put up 25/100/100 seasons with the chance of winning a batting title.
2. Dustin Pedroia - .298/20/88/97/22 - Pedroia and Kinsler are almost interchangeable at the two spot. I think that Pedroia takes it because of his batting average and consistent play (barring that slow start to the season.)
3. Ian Kinsler - .271/27/81/109/23 - I love Kinsler's energy and just hope that at some point it does not lead to injury. Power numbers might drop a little bit due to his ISO being .030 above his career average.
4. Dustin Ackley - .293/15/78/81/16 - Numbers 4-7 on this list were tough. When I finally decided on Ackley it was because he has the most potential of the players and should have a solid average.
5. Howie Kendrick - .291/16/72/81/15 - Very similar projection to Ackley. I just think that Kendrick has shown what he can do and is going to stay right around these stats for the next few years.
6. Dan Uggla - .256/34/87/88/2 - If Uggla could manage to get his average up to .275+ he would be in the top-3. Unfortunately, I do not see that happening. Expect another 30+ home run season.
7. Jason Kipnis - .283/21/75/63/14 - Kipnis should provide a power spark in the Indians line up. I still do not think that there are enough parts around him to increase his other numbers. Still, he should be one to watch rise up the board in the next few years.
8. Ben Zobrist - .267/14/75/88/19 - When you look at Zobrist's stats you can see a trend—he has a good year every other year. Now I know this might just be coincidence, but I am going to follow the trend. Still gives you solid numbers in four categories at a premium position.
9. Aaron Hill - .271/21/72/75/16 - I really think that a change of scenery was what Hill needed. He has been tearing it up in his new digs to a tune of .353/1/9/10/1 in 68 at-bats.
10. Danny Espinosa - .245/24/70/68/15 - Espinosa strikes out way too often, so far 25.4% of his at-bats at the major league level had ended this way. If he can cut down on these K's, his power/speed combination should keep him in the top 10.
Third base could be a deeper position if there was not for the many injuries—mostly incurred by the aging stars who man the hot corner.
If Wright and Zimmerman can stay healthy the top three picks here are really impressive. After that, I am really excited about Lawrie and Sandoval for the 2012 season.
1. Evan Longoria - .286/33/117/95/3 - Evan Longoria is ready to compete for the 2012 AL MVP . His numbers are solid, but a low .242 BABIP has kept him back. Over the last three years he has increased his BB% and decreased his K%.
2. David Wright - .278/26/98/85/17 - David Wright's value will be a little bit less than Longoria's because of his home runs. Wright will probably have close to the same amount of extra base hits and more steals. So, as long as he stays healthy he can compete for the top spot.
3. Ryan Zimmerman - .293/24/98/92/3 - Zimmerman should have stats that go right along with Wright but with a better average and less steals. Injuries have been a problem for Zimmerman in the past as well and that could really drop him down in the rankings.
4. Brett Lawrie - .301/22/89/88/19 - Lawrie jumps into the top-5 third basemen group in his first full season for two reasons: many of the top third basemen are aging or injury prone and Lawrie has shown he can hit for average, runs well and has improving pop.
5. Alex Rodriguez - .281/23/91/84/5 - A-Rod has been declining over the last few years, and 2011 has been his worst. When he plays, he still puts up numbers to put him in the top-3, but the emphasis is on "when." Cameron Diaz's lover drops to No. 5 because of nagging injuries and a significant decrease in line-drive percentage over the last two years.
6. Pablo Sandoval - .307/23/75/68/2 - Sandoval gains the edge on Beltre because he is on an upslope while Beltre should start going down. Sandoval suffered a sophomore slump in 2010 but has really showed exactly what he can do in 2011 thanks to an improved fitness regimen. With Posey's cover in the Giants lineup next year, look for the Pandaman to continue to improve.
7. Adrian Beltre - .272/20/94/79/0 - I do not think that Beltre has many good years left, but his power numbers should still remain. On a team like Texas this is key, because with a lot of offense around him, he should be able to have inflated stats.
8. Aramis Ramirez - .290/24/82/70/0 - Ramirez will be 33 to start the 2012 MLB season, but has shown he can still put up solid numbers. Look for stats to decrease slightly in each category, but should still be a safe pick.
9. Kevin Youkilis - .276/18/83/71/1 - Youkilis has not played more than 136 games since 2008 and seems to be declining quite rapidly. 2012 might be his last chance to prove himself before Will Middlebrooks starts knocking on the door.
10. Mike Moustakas - .269/20/80/72/1 - "Moose-tacos" has seemed to need a little bit of time to become adjusted to the league that he is playing in. He is showing improvement as the end of the 2011 season is approaching. If he does not increase his power numbers as he gets more comfortable in the league, he will not be someone to select as your fantasy third baseman.
Some of the best players in the league are featured at shortstop. Tulowitzki has a real chance at being the top player in the NL, Castro is a rising star and will only be 22 at the start of 2012. Hanley has an enormous amount of talent and Reyes was enjoying an historic year in 2011 before getting hurt. This will be an exciting group to watch.
1. Troy Tulowitzki - .312/36/124/108/11 - Tulo can hit anything—88.5% of the pitches that he swings at, he makes contact with. His BABIP was below his career average and he is decreasing his K%. Could be looking at the 2012 NL MVP.
2. Starlin Castro - .302/10/68/105/26 - Here is a real five-tool player who has an enormous amount of room to grow and will be only 22 at the beginning of the 2012 season. Injuries do not look to be a problem and increasing power numbers should come.
3. Hanley Ramirez - .293/21/79/93/25 - Hanley has had a horrible year by his lofty standards—especially considering that many made him their No. 1 pick in the fantasy draft. He was hampered by a BABIP that was .054 points lower than his career average. Once he gets healthy he should have a bounce-back year.
4. Jose Reyes - .296/10/59/100/36 - This year has been tremendous for Reyes, but once he gets his multi-year contract in place, his stats will suffer. That's not to say they won't be good, but certainly not to his potential.
5. Asdrubel Cabrera - .278/24/87/80/18 - Cabrera's transformation into a power hitter can be seen by his .113 increase in isolated power from 2010, a GB/FB ratio decrease from 1.64 to 1.10 and a near 4% increase in strikeouts. Should see similar numbers next year.
6. Derek Jeter - .294/7/65/90/13 - After Jeter got hit No. 3,000 out of the way you could see a change in his play. I do not see him decreasing his performance too much going into next year, even at the ripe ol' age of 37.
7. Elvis Andrus - .281/5/59/106/43 - Solid average, good offense behind him and top speed should make Andrus an enticing option.
8. Dee Gordon - .280/2/44/93/56 - Has a chance to lead the NL in stolen bases. With a young core of talented offensive players around him, he has the chance to put up some nice stats.
9. Emilio Bonifacio - .278/4/45/87/40 - Should have a decline after his breakout season, but for the most part more of the same. The 7,8 and 9 players on this list are very similar and could all move up or down based on the offense around them and injuries.
10. Alexei Ramirez - .274/15/71/81/10 - Has not really improved his stats at all since entering the majors with a bang. If he can improve at all look for him to creep into the top 10.
There is so much talent in the outfield that it is hard to narrow it down to just 10 guys.
Some names were left out (Hunter Pence, Alex Gordon, Shane Victorino, Dominic Brown, Matt Holliday, Carl Crawford, Jay Bruce, etc.,) that I may end up regretting this time next year. Nonetheless, I think that these ten players are the best in the outfield.
1. Matt Kemp - .299/30/105/100/37 - Another 30/30 season for Matt Kemp. This guy is just too talented to be surpassed by anyone else. Hopefully his team can pull together and get some more wins.
2. Ryan Braun - .322/31/109/110/26 - Ryan Braun really brought his talent to the next level by adding stolen bases to his arsenal.
3. Jacoby Ellsbury - .306/23/86/117/42 - One of my favorite players in the league has really broke out in 2011. The power numbers should decrease next year, but anyone who can hit 20+ home runs and steal 40+ bases is a must draft.
4. Justin Upton - .318/31/97/100/23 - Upton will be a top player in the major leagues for years to come. Look for him to be an MVP candidate each year for the next six years.
5. Curtis Granderson - .273/31/98/117/23 - Granderson is in the running for 2011 MVP of the American League, but one thing will keep him from winning; his batting average. He is doing much better than he has in the past, but still will never have a top batting average.
6. Jose Bautista - .289/41/110/109/7 - The power house that is Jose Bautista will continue to put up big numbers. His batting average, while still good, drops him down to the sixth spot.
7. Carlos Gonzalez - .306/28/101/106/20 - Gonzalez loves the thin air in Colorado and him and Tulowitzki tear it up in the NL West.
8. Michael Bourn - .291/3/50/101/56 - Being in Atlanta will boost Bourn's RBI and runs numbers. Should be a career year for the speedster.
9. Andrew McCutchen - .281/28/95/90/25 - McCutchen keeps getting better and I would not be surprised if he makes his way into the top 5.
10. Mike Stanton - .279/39/96/86/8 - Stanton should be able to compete for the league lead in home runs from year to year. If he was on a better team his ranking could be even higher.