It’s never too early to start planning for next season. (This is especially true for teams already out of playoff contention.)
If you are already mathematically eliminated in 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.
- 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. He’ll be even more valuable next season if he continues to play at third base occasionally and earns third base eligibility in 2012.
- Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Colorado Rockies – Tulowitzki has taken over as the best shortstop in the game. With the struggles and injury of Hanley Ramirez, he has temporarily fallen out of the top 10. It is certainly possible for HanRam to come back from his injury in a big way and earn his way back onto the list, but for now, the top shortstop is Tulo, who hits for power and has a little bit of speed to go along with it.
- Jose Bautista, 3B/OF, Toronto Blue Jays – Bautista is the epitome of the perfect hitter in baseball right now. He mashes home runs, drives in runs and is currently 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 once again in 2012, he could possibly move into the No. 1 spot for 2013.
- 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.
- Jay Bruce, OF, Cincinnati Reds – While Braun is entering the prime of his career, Bruce hasn’t yet realized his full potential. Bruce is hitting .295 with 17 home runs and 47 RBI at the moment. Next year, he should be even better. And the year after that, even better. You get the idea.
- 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.
- 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.
- Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, Boston Red Sox – Ellsbury is a very unique player. He hits for power (seven home runs and 32 RBI so far), 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 helps out your fantasy team in every aspect of hitting.
- 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. And being a left-handed hitter in the new Yankee Stadium is always a good thing. It certainly boosts Cano’s power numbers (12 home runs and 40 RBI this season)
- 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 yet, especially after the very disappointing season he had last year, during which he looked disinterested at times. But, if his desire and work ethic have changed, he’ll skyrocket up this list in the near future.
Honorable mentions: Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, Carlos Gonzalez, Curtis Granderson