With fantasy football beginning to take over, you may want to brush up on your knowledge before draft day. But if you're still loving the fantasy baseball season like I am, don't worry too much, there is plenty of baseball left to be played.
Jacoby Ellsbury is starting to look like Matt Kemp, only better. He is making his case for top 10 player status for 2012. We've known for the last few years that Ellsbury is as good as anyone on the base paths, but he is showing that he is no longer a one trick pony. He has added a consistent .300+ average and 25+ home run power, not to mention he is on pace for nearly 100 RBIs to go along with the 50 steals he could grab for you.
Albert Pujols is having a "down year" as is Hanley Ramirez, but will that keep them from the first round in next years draft? What players could take their place?
This is what the first round of the 2012 fantasy baseball draft could look like:
1. Ryan Braun, LF, Milwaukee Brewers: Back in March when drafts for the 2011 season were underway this could have been Carl Crawford. For good reason too. Left field is just a barren wasteland of fantasy talent aside from the top two or three guys. Braun is proving to us yet again that he is an elite talent after his "down" 2010 in which we saw his lowest career totals in home runs and stolen bases. With two months left to play Braun already has notched his second career 20/20 season and is on pace for his highest batting average in a full season. His numbers right now might not be as gaudy as Matt Kemp's, but Braun brings a much more reliable resume to the draft board.
2. Albert Pujols, 1B, St. Louis Cardinals: Pujols barely cracks ESPN's top-30 players currently, but if he gets hot really soon we'll see the Albert Pujols we drafted number one overall for the past decade. He'll end up with his 30 homers and 100 RBIs, he may even end up with 10 or more stolen bases, but a .300 average may be out of reach at this point. Whatever you want to chalk Pujols' poor season up to, don't go into 2012 expecting this Pujols to be the norm.
3. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Boston Red Sox: Gonzalez is very much enjoying his first season in Boston. It seems like the green monster and top of the Boston batting order were made for him. His power is the only thing that is a bit of a deterrent from taking him this high. Typically a first baseman isn't drafted for his stellar average, but Gonzalez brings much more to the table than a steady batting line. As long as he is in the Red Sox lineup he'll approach 140 RBIs consistently as well as 30 home runs. I'm not sure, but the AL just got got another Miguel Cabrera.
4. Matt Kemp, CF, Los Angeles Dodgers: This is the spot in my draft where I'd be willing to pass on a player like Miguel Cabrera or Joey Votto for the amazing upside that is Matt Kemp. The biggest gamble you'll see in the first round, Kemp's potential for 40/40 is too tempting not to take.
5. Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Detroit Tigers: It is shocking to me that he isn't on pace for 100 RBIs. Even still, he will reach 30 homers and hit for better than .300, he'll also probably pick up his RBI pace and reach that coveted mark. This a guy who has hit 30 bombs and drove in 100 runs every year for four straight years and for two prior to 2006 where he went 26/114/.339. By drafting him in the first round you're signing up for 30/100/.300 or more in each one of those categories, but he doesn;t offer the same stolen base totals that Pujols or Votto can, maybe that is what keeps him available until the second round nearly every year.
6. Jose Bautista, RF/3B, Toronto Blue Jays: Last year he was simply the most powerful hitter in all of baseball, but this season he is doing a little bit more. He is on pace to swat more than 40 HRs for the second straight year, but he is actually hitting over .300. His power/average combination plus the ability to fill your 3B slot makes Bautista a very valuable player for 2012.
7. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF, Boston Red Sox: Carl Crawford was a first rounder in just about every draft and his 2010 numbers were nothing compared to what Ellsbury can do this season. In 2010 drafts Ellsbury was taken at this spot in some leagues, but then spent the year on the DL. Back then he was a stolen base and run scoring machine, but this season he has added a top-five batting average as well as 25 home run and 100 RBI potential.
8. Joey Votto, 1B, Cincinnati Reds: He is a very similar hitter to Miguel Cabrera. He won't lead the league in anyone stat, but he will likely end up being top-3 in almost everything. His track record isn't as decorated as some of the other first baseman available, but I don't think we've seen his breakout season yet, and that says a lot about what he can do.
Here comes the tricky part of the draft. Arguably the best, safest players are off the board and you need to start looking at position scarcity. It is that type of strategy that keeps David Wright and Evan Longoria going in the first round, but are they really worth your attention this early? These picks are what I like to call the swing picks. You get the option of gambling on a high upside guy like Justin Upton or take a pitcher, but you can also nab a solid hitter like Mark Teixeira or Prince Fielder in the first few choices of the second round.
9. Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Colorado Rockies: Shortstop is such a tricky position to draft. You either take Tulowitzki, Jose Reyes, or Hanley Ramirez early, or you get stuck with the Erick Aybar's and Alcides Escobar's of the world. However, Reyes can't stay healthy enough to win you a championship and Ramirez has work ethic issues keeping him from becoming the best player in the league. Tulo doesn't really turn it on until the last month of the season, but in his case you can draft for the second half and not get killed by his first half.
10. Justin Upton, RF, Arizona Diamondbacks: This is the year where Upton is living up to the hype and putting it all together. His average, power, and speed are all at places where we are comfortable calling him our best hitter, but the better part is that he still has so much room to improve.
11. Roy Halladay, SP, Philadelphia Phillies: I don't usually take pitchers in the first round, especially with the many young studs on the rise like Justin Verlander, Jered Weaver and Clayton Kershaw. If you take Halladay now you guarantee yourself an ace in your rotation and you will have the option of grabbing Teixeira, Fielder or Longoria with your next pick.
12. Evan Longoria, 3B, Tampa Bay Rays: There a re a few guys whose name you can fill in right here, but talent at third base is shallow and he is legitimate middle-of-the-order bat who is having a bit of a struggle this year. But I've always believed in not drafting on the most recent year only. He has the 30 HR/100 RBI capability we saw in 2009. Health might become a concern, but don't draft with that mentality.
I would love you here what you all have to say. Feel free to leave a comment whether you agree or not. Or feel free to tweet me your response.