Fantasy baseball draft prep: The top 100


Fantasy baseball draft prep: The top 100

It will be March before the work week ends, meaning fantasy baseball is just around the corner. Let’s get the draft prep started with a look at the top 100.

Keep in mind that this is based on a standard scoring system that includes the following 12 categories:

Offense: Batting average, OPS, home runs, RBIs, runs, net steals (stolen bases minus caught stealings)

Pitching: Wins, Innings, ERA, WHIP, K/9, net saves (saves minus blown saves)

The Top 100

1) Mike Trout -- (Angels CF)
    NOTE: Finished sixth in baseball in BA, third in OPS, first in net steals, first in runs, 22nd in homers.
2) Miguel Cabrera -- (Tigers 3B)
    NOTE: Won the Triple Crown, most feared hitter in the game, barely strikes out.
3) Ryan Braun -- (Brewers LF)
4) Robinson Cano -- (Yankees 2B)
    NOTE: Cano’s positional value could put him ahead of Braun.
5) Joey Votto -- (Reds 1B)
    NOTE: Best hitter in the National League. Missed 51 games in 2012 and still finished seventh in doubles (44).
6) Carlos Gonzalez -- (Rockies LF)
    NOTE: When deciding between CarGo, Matt Kemp and Andrew McCutchen, go with the guy who plays 81 games at Coors Field.
7) Andrew McCutchen -- (Pirates CF)
8) Albert Pujols -- (Angels 1B)
    NOTE: Hit .307 with a .941 OPS after May last season. Will put up gaudy stats with Trout and Josh Hamilton around.
9) Josh Hamilton -- (Angels LF)
    NOTE: Loses benefit of 81 games in Arlington, gains benefit of Trout and Pujols. Has eligibility in LF and CF.
10) Matt Kemp -- (Dodgers CF)
    NOTE: Top-three potential when his hamstring is healthy.
11) Justin Verlander -- (Tigers SP)
12) Clayton Kershaw -- (Dodgers SP)
    NOTE: Toss-up between these two, who should each win 20 with sub-2.60 ERAs and 230 strikeouts.
13) Prince Fielder -- (Tigers 1B)
    NOTE: His season flew under the radar, but Fielder hit a career-high .313 and struck out just 84 times.
14) Giancarlo Stanton -- (Marlins RF)
    NOTE: Lack of lineup protection is scary, but so is the sound every pitch makes off his bat.
15) Jose Bautista -- (Blue Jays RF)
    NOTE: Supporting cast is much, much better than in years past.
16) Adrian Beltre -- (Rangers 3B)
17) Stephen Strasburg -- (Nationals SP)
    NOTE: Won’t be shut down in the fantasy playoffs this time.
18) Troy Tulowitzki -- (Rockies SS)
    NOTE: One of the most overrated fantasy players, but can’t discount positional value at shortstop.
19) Jose Reyes -- (Blue Jays SS)
20) Buster Posey -- (Giants C)
    NOTE: Far and away the best player at a position that, if you don’t fill with a reliable bat, you’ll spend the entire season wishing you did.
21) Felix Hernandez -- (Mariners SP)
22) Cliff Lee -- (Phillies SP)
23) David Price -- (Rays SP)
24) Cole Hamels -- (Phillies SP)
    NOTE: Any of these guys could be the No. 1 pitcher in fantasy.
25) Zack Greinke -- (Dodgers SP)
    NOTE: Insane contract. He has a 3.83 ERA the last three seasons.
26) Adam Jones -- (Orioles CF)
27) David Wright -- (Mets 3B)
    NOTE: Crappy lineup. Plus Wright hit .260 with nearly a strikeout per game over his final 83.
28) Jered Weaver -- (Angels SP)
29) Matt Holliday -- (Cardinals SP)
    NOTE: Consistently gives you .300, 30 homers, 100 RBIs and a .900 OPS.
30) Evan Longoria -- (Rays 3B)
31) Justin Upton -- (Braves LF)
32) Dustin Pedroia -- (Red Sox 2B)
33) Hanley Ramirez -- (Dodgers SS/3B)
    NOTE: This has to be the bounce-back year, right?
34) Ian Kinsler -- (Rangers 2B)
35) Bryce Harper -- (Nationals LF)
36) Adrian Gonzalez -- (Dodgers 1B)
37) Matt Cain -- (Giants SP)
    NOTE: Missed zero starts the last six seasons. Gives you a 3.20 ERA in 215 innings every year.
38) Jason Heyward -- (Braves RF)
39) Edwin Encarnacion -- (Blue Jays 1B)
    NOTE: The most efficient run producer in all of baseball last season based on RBI opportunities.
40) Paul Goldschmidt -- (Diamondbacks 1B)
    NOTE: A player to watch this season. Has 40-home run potential and could out-produce several other prominent first basemen. Was 18-for-21 in stolen bases last year.
41) Ryan Zimmerman -- (Nationals 3B)
    NOTE: Falls in this range but gets hurt every year. You can likely find a more reliable value-pick at third base later.
42) CC Sabathia -- (Yankees SP)
    NOTE: As safe as they come.
43) Madison Bumgarner -- (Giants SP)
44) Gio Gonzalez -- (Nationals SP)
45) Yoenis Cespedes -- (Athletics LF)
    NOTE: Hit .311/.376/.533 in the second half with 14 home runs.
46) Jacoby Ellsbury -- (Red Sox CF)
    NOTE: Has to re-prove himself, but he was a first-round pick a year ago.
47) Jay Bruce -- (Reds RF)
    NOTE: Will have positional eligibility at CF and RF.
48) Chase Headley -- (Padres 3B)
49) Roy Halladay -- (Phillies SP)
    NOTE: Someone is going to get a fourth-round steal.
50) Joe Mauer -- (Twins C)
51) Chase Utley -- (Phillies 2B)
    NOTE: If he plays 130 games you’ll have one of the top-three picks of your draft.
52) Starlin Castro -- (Cubs SS)
53) Jimmy Rollins -- (Phillies SS)
    NOTE: May seem early, but he has the homers and steals and you’ll need a SS.
54) Asdrubal Cabrera -- (Indians SS)
    NOTE: Once the run on shortstops starts, you won’t want to be left without one.
55) Aramis Ramirez -- (Brewers 3B)
56) B.J. Upton -- (Braves CF)
57) Brett Lawrie -- (Blue Jays 3B)
58) R.A. Dickey -- (Blue Jays SP)
59) Brandon Phillips -- (Reds 2B)
60) Aaron Hill -- (Diamondbacks 2B)
61) Billy Butler -- (Royals DH)
    NOTE: Gives you the numbers of Adrian Gonzalez with half the name appeal.
62) Craig Kimbrel -- (Braves RP)
    NOTE: Taking a closer this early is silly. Until you remember that Kimbrel struck out more batters last season (116) than he didn’t strike out (115).
63) Ben Zobrist -- (Rays RF)
    NOTE: He’s eligible at 2B, SS and RF. The positional value alone is worthy of a sixth-round pick, and he had a .848 OPS last season.  
64) David Ortiz -- (Red Sox DH)
    NOTE: Can only be your utility guy, but you’re never going to bench him.
65) Pablo Sandoval -- (Giants 3B)
66) Allen Craig -- (Cardinals 1B)
    NOTE: Hit .307 with a .522 slugging percentage last season, and has eligibility at first base and right field.
67) Kris Medlen -- (Braves SP)
    NOTE: He won’t come close to his second-half in 2012, but he’s worth the risk given the similar talent of the next group of pitchers.
68) Chris Sale -- (White Sox SP)
69) Yu Darvish -- (Rangers SP)
70) Jordan Zimmermann -- (Nationals SP)
    NOTE: A quality start machine
71) Johnny Cueto -- (Reds SP)
72) Max Scherzer -- (Tigers SP)
73) Ian Desmond -- (Nationals SS)
    NOTE: Don’t have a ton of faith in him, but after Desmond come the J.J. Hardys and Jhonny Peraltas of the world.
74) Shin-Soo Choo -- (Reds RF)
75) Michael Bourn -- (Indians CF)
76) Adam Wainright -- (Cardinals SP)
77) Matt Moore -- (Rays SP)
    NOTE: Struggled with control as the Rays had him throw more sinkers. If he gets back to using his dominant four-seam fastball most of the time, he’ll make the leap.
78) Mat Latos -- (Reds SP)
79) Yovani Gallardo -- (Brewers SP)
    NOTE: Latos and Gallardo are the same pitcher.
80) Aroldis Chapman -- (Reds RP)
    NOTE: Would have been higher if we knew definitely he’d close. If he starts, he won’t be as dominant. But he’ll help you win either way.
81) Victor Martinez -- (Tigers DH)
    NOTE: Many will forget about him after he missed all of last season. But has catcher eligibility and will have a ton of RBI chances.
82) Austin Jackson -- (Tigers CF)
    NOTE: He’s not Mike Trout, but he might score as many runs.
83) Paul Konerko -- (White Sox 1B)
84) James Shields -- (Royals SP)
85) Yadier Molina -- (Cardinals C)
86) Carlos Santana -- (Indians C)
87) Carlos Beltran -- (Cardinals RF)
88) Alex Gordon -- (Royals LF)
89) Matt Wieters -- (Orioles C)
90) Martin Prado -- (Diamondbacks 3B)
91) Ryan Howard -- (Phillies 1B)
    NOTE: Ninth round is the right value for Howard.
92) Mark Trumbo -- (Angels LF)
93) Derek Jeter -- (Yankees SS)
    NOTE: The right time to take a risk on the recovering Jeter.
94) Mariano Rivera -- (Yankees RP)
95) Jonathan Papelbon -- (Phillies RP)
    NOTE: Saves may be overrated, but Papelbon is a safe pick for 38-40.
96) Shane Victorino -- (Red Sox RF)
    NOTE: Eligibility at CF and RF, could be dynamic at Fenway Park.
97) Josh Johnson -- (Nationals 3B)
98) Curtis Granderson -- (Yankees CF)
    NOTE: Value will plummet with the 10-week forearm injury.
99) Jason Kipnis -- (Indians 2B)
    NOTE: Really tailed off in the second half last season.
100) Alex Rios -- (White Sox RF)

Next five hitters: Mark Teixeira (Yankees 1B), Elvis Andrus (Rangers SS), Wilin Rosario (Rockies C), Nelson Cruz (Rangers RF), Melky Cabrera (Blue Jays LF).

Next five pitchers: Tim Lincecum (Giants SP), Jake Peavy (White Sox SP), Brandon Morrow (Blue Jays SP), Jon Lester (Red Sox SP), Matt Garza (Cubs SP).

Fantasy baseball preview: Players to avoid


Fantasy baseball preview: Players to avoid

Over the coming days we'll preview the fantasy baseball season by looking at ascending and descending players, guys to pluck late and to avoid, and unconventional strategies for building a winning team.

Today, we look at potential 2014 busts.

When choosing fantasy baseball sleepers and busts, we're identifying players who should either vastly outperform their average draft position or players who will fall well short of expectations. The quality of player that is actually a sleeper in fantasy baseball is higher than in fantasy football, simply because rosters are much deeper.

Here are some players to avoid reaching for, players who have bust written all over them:

OF/1B Michael Cuddyer (Col)
By all accounts a great guy, a great teammate. A productive right-handed bat, too. Just not a .331 hitter.

Cuddyer won the NL batting title in 2013 by hitting 54 points above his career average and 71 points better than he did in 2012. Some might call it the Coors Field effect, but then how do you explain Cuddyer's .260 batting average in 2012 with the Rockies?

Cuddyer can still be a productive player in 2013, but you'll find better, less expensive options in the outfield or at first base. Cuddyer had a .382 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) last season, which is 70 points above his career mark and a clear sign that luck was heavily involved in his career year. Typically, a BABIP that high will belong only to speedy players, superstars, or guys who hit a ton of line drives in a given year. None of those descriptions fit Cuddyer.

Averaging out the top fantasy sites, Cuddyer is the 30th-ranked outfielder on the board. But we'd take a number of guys ahead of him, including Austin Jackson, Curtis Granderson, Shane Victorino and Coco Crisp.

3B Chris Johnson (Atl)
The sabermetric community isn't fond of Johnson, who maintained a high batting average way longer last season than most expected. I guess you can't argue with the results, but don't expect them to be the same.

Johnson hit .321/.358/.457 thanks to an insane .394 BABIP, the highest in all of baseball. His defenders will say that he has the ability to sustain something close to that, but it's not true. Dexter Fowler had a .390 BABIP the year before and it fell to .323 this past season, despite all the speed he possesses. That's just one of many, many examples. Guys don't maintain marks that high year-in and year-out.

There are so many other third basemen, and Johnson is a one-dimensional player. Don't reach.

SP Ervin Santana (Free agent)
Santana tried to parlay a career year into a $100 million contract, but the market never developed. The top free-agent pitchers all waited for Masahiro Tanaka to sign before the dominoes began falling, and after they did Santana was still left without a team.

That is one of several worries. When Santana eventually signs, he won't have had a full spring training to get his arm in shape. And even if he did, he was a candidate to regress in 2014.

Santana is only two seasons removed from a 5.16 ERA and a league-leading 39 homers allowed. He also has never been a high-strikeout guy. You can find better options than Santana. Give me Jarrod Parker, Ivan Nova, Jon Niese, or Josh Johnson on the rebound instead.

OF Hunter Pence (SF)
Pence reestablished himself in 2013 and earned a $90 million contract by hitting .283/.339/.483 with 27 homers, 99 RBIs, 35 doubles and 22 steals. He also played in all 162 games, which is extremely valuable in the long fantasy season.

But Pence is a year-to-year player. His success is determined mostly by the eyes on his sharply hit ground balls. In 2011, he hit .324 with the Astros and Phillies, and if you recall, his typical base hit with the Phils was a groundball up the middle. Then in 2012, seemingly everything was hit directly at the shortstop. That is reflected in his BABIP.

It's also reflected on his batting average on ground balls. In 2011, Pence hit .352 on grounders. In 2013, he hit .287. In 2012, his down year with the Phils that resulted in a trade to San Francisco, he hit .202 on ground balls.

Pence could be very good again this season, but his draft value is much higher than it was at this time last year. Take him coming off a down year, not after a solid season. Especially given his ballpark -- there are few stadiums more pitcher-friendly than AT&T Park.

Other players we don't love: Dodgers OF Yasiel Puig, Mets SP Bartolo Colon, Diamondbacks SP Patrick Corbin, Yankees SP CC Sabathia, Giants OF Mike Morse, Orioles OF Nelson Cruz

Fantasy Football: Round 1 mock draft, picks 1-6


Fantasy Football: Round 1 mock draft, picks 1-6

On Thursday we took a look at the six players who might make up the back end of the first round of standard scoring fantasy football drafts next summer, noting how much different the first 12 picks will look in 2014 (see story).

We had a wide receiver trio at No. 12, Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell at No. 11, Knowshon Moreno 10th, Eddie Lacy ninth, Jimmy Graham eighth and Marshawn Lynch seventh.

Let’s take a look at the top half of the first round:

6. Calvin Johnson
Megatron falls to this spot seemingly every year -- middle of the first round, between picks six and eight.

It was yet another dominant fantasy season for the Lions’ freakish wideout, as he posted 84 catches for 1,492 yards and 12 TDs in just 14 games. As with Graham, just imagine what he would have done had he been healthy all season.

Johnson averaged about 1½ fewer targets per game than he did last season, but was still the obvious focal point of the Detroit offense. Double-teams don’t matter. Pace of game doesn’t matter. He’s as safe as it gets when it comes to wide receivers, and in 2014 will again be the clear-cut No. 1 choice.

Interesting that neither of the top two fantasy receivers -- Johnson at 220.20 points and Josh Gordon at 219.20 -- played a full season.

5. Matt Forte
What a consistently productive season for Forte -- double-digits in 14 of 16 weeks and 70 catches to go along with 267 carries.

He was a workhorse in the first year under offensive guru Marc Trestman, who also pulled a career year out of Josh McCown and a breakout campaign from Alshon Jeffery.

Forte rendered backup thumper Michael Bush obsolete this season, rushing for seven touchdowns and scoring two more through the air.

Forte had over 100 total yards in 13 of 15 games this season, failing to reach that mark against only the Lions’ stingy run defense and the Eagles in a blowout loss.

Some may fear his 2013 workload, but Forte has bulked up throughout his six-year NFL career to become the feature, every-down back he is today. He’s an easy top-five selection next season.

4. Peyton Manning
This depends entirely on how many points your league awards for passing touchdowns. If it’s four points, we could see Manning going behind Forte. If it’s six points, we could see him going first or second overall.

Think that’s crazy? Consider this: In four-point passing TD leagues, Manning scored 64 more points than any other player. He averaged more than 4.0 points per week more than the next-best QB, Drew Brees.

Now, the big question is whether Manning will repeat this performance, and the safe answer is no … it was the best statistical season any quarterback has ever had. But he does still have all of his weapons, and Demaryius Thomas (26), Julius Thomas (25) and Eric Decker (26) are all in their primes. Wes Welker will still be under contract, too.

Manning will also have left tackle Ryan Clady back next season, which should help his protection and timing.

Even if you don’t think Manning is capable of coming close to his 51-TD, 5,000-plus yard fantasy season, it’s also no sure thing that Jamaal Charles scores 20 touchdowns next year, either.

The bottom line is that Manning is again a top-five pick after several years of fantasy moving away from the strategy of taking a QB early.

3. Adrian Peterson
The consensus 2013 No. 1 overall pick didn’t have a bad season by any stretch, but five running backs did top him in points during the fantasy season. With 206.20 points, Peterson was behind Moreno, Lynch, Forte, LeSean McCoy and Charles.

Despite facing eight- and nine-man fronts behind an offensive line that regressed and a fragile, three-quarterback situation, Peterson had 1,437 total yards and 11 TDs while missing one game and most of another.

Like Johnson, you know that the numbers will be there with Peterson no matter how much trouble befalls his offense.

And if you have a top-three pick next summer, you’ll feel much more comfortable than you did last season, when there was no consensus No. 2 or No. 3 selection.

2. LeSean McCoy
Based purely on system, McCoy could be the No. 1 pick in drafts next year. Chip Kelly loves to run the ball, and Shady is brilliant behind the game’s most athletic and active offensive line.

McCoy has caused 55 missed tackles this season, second only to Peterson. He leads the NFL with 1,476 rushing yards and also has 51 catches, 536 yards and 10 total TDs.

He’s just such a home-run hitter, and that is especially important based on how easily his team’s offense moves the ball. Kelly likes to keep McCoy fresh, but it doesn’t really cost his stat lines. Through 15 weeks, McCoy had about four times as many carries as Bryce Brown.

1. Jamaal Charles
The only reason we put McCoy behind Charles is that Charles is the focal point of his offense both on the ground and through the air, and the Chiefs’ system is conducive to check-downs.

Charles has nine more TDs through 15 weeks than McCoy and 32 fewer total yards. You can’t go wrong with either one next season.

It will come down to what you personally value more next summer: the 19 TDs Charles scored in the 2013 fantasy season and your faith in him repeating it, or the mind-boggling numbers McCoy could continue to put up in Kelly’s warp-speed offense.