Now that the first full week of Spring Training is under way I think it is time to start ranking the best players leading into the 2012 season and get the party started!¬†Now these rankings are my opinion so you may not agree with me but this should at least get the conversation started and make it feel like draft season. When compiling my overall top 100 players entering the season I take in consideration many factors from injuries to position scarcity to surrounding cast and are based on a standard 5 x 5 fantasy format. So sit back and enjoy and feel free to let me know how you feel about where your favorite players are ranked entering the 2012 season!
Miguel Cabrera, 1B (DET)–For the third season in a row Cabrera increased his batting average, while also hitting well over the .300-mark versus both right-handed and left-handed pitchers. He also posted his highest on-base percentage of his career in 2011 which was helped by setting a career-high in walks. Expect these trends to continue as he should finish with at least a .300 BA/30 HR/100 RBI season as the new king of fantasy baseball hitting in arguably the most potent offense in the American League.
Albert Pujols, 1B (LAA)–Pujols only slipped one spot from his usual No. 1 ranking after signing as a free agent with the Los Angeles Angels. However, Pujols posed a career-low in batting average for 2011 and failed to reach the 100-RBI mark for the first time in his career. He may require some time to get acquainted to the American League at the start of the season, but in the end he is still Albert Pujols and he is still a fantasy stud that should produce similar number to his career averages.
Matt Kemp, OF (LAD)–It is amazing what a little more focus can do for an athlete, and no one can prove that statement more than Kemp. Prior to the 2011 season, Kemp dedicated himself to the game of baseball and proved he was an MVP-caliber player and ended up being the fantasy baseball MVP. He set career-highs in every counting category in terms of fantasy in 2011 and fell one home run short of joining the 40/40 club. While his season 2011 season will likely be tough to duplicate, he has now shown what his true potential is and is now the best five-tool player in all of fantasy baseball.
Ryan Braun, OF (MIL)–Braun gave us all a big scare this offseason after testing positive for steroids, but in the end he won his appeal and now it is time to move on. In 2011, Braun had his best season as a Brewer, finishing the season with a .332 BA/33 HR/111RBI stat-line, but what even more impressive was his 33 steals. Now that he is given the green-light on the base paths more he can become an even more elite fantasy player. Although he doesn‚Äôt have his bash-buddy Price Fielder hitting behind him anymore, he will still be an elite fantasy player in 2012.
Jose Bautista, OF (TOR)–Bautista proved to his doubters that the 2010 season was not a fluke, following up his breakout season with 43 home runs and 103 RBIs to go along with a .302 batting average. His ability to hit for average rather than for strictly power was impressive, but he did cool off in the second half in 2011 (1st Half: .326 BA, 2nd Half: .278 BA). Depending on his position eligibility he may be considered the No. 1 third basemen in fantasy or the No. 3 outfielder but either way he is worthy of a top five pick in fantasy drafts this season.
Evan Longoria, 3B (TB)–I tend to be a little higher on Longoria than most people, but I do have my reasons. If you really breakdown his 2011 season, you would see that he had a career-low hit percentage (24%), which was the first time in his career that he was lower than 30 percent and the main cause for a batting average slide. He also suffered an oblique injury that made him miss time early in the season, but the power was still there despite the ‚Äúdown‚ÄĚ season. As long as he can stay healthy all signs point to a rebound year as fantasy‚Äôs No. 1 third basemen.
Justin Upton, OF (ARI)–Upton rebounded nicely from somewhat of a down 2010 season finishing near the top of the MVP voting in the National League. His mix of power and speed puts him in a category of only a few and he still has room to grow at the age of 24. As the Diamondbacks continue to get better, so will Upton and his fantasy value.
Joey Votto, 1B (CIN)–Votto put together yet another solid season in 2011 for the Reds with a .309 BA/29 HR/103 RBI stat-line. Now entering his prime, I expect him to continue to put up similar numbers now that this seems to be his benchmark. Also keep in mind he will be a free-agent at the end of the 2013 season, so he has motivation to continue to improve since he will likely be starting to talk contracts with the Reds.
Robinson Cano, 2B (NYY)–Cano has now done it for three seasons in a row and has now permanently planted himself in the top 10 on my rankings for the foreseeable future. While there really isn‚Äôt anything too flashy about Cano, he gets the job done and considering the scarcity at second base, he is a clear-cut favorite to continue his fantasy success.
Troy Tulowitzki, SS (COL)–While many are a lot higher on Tulowitzki that I am, I still consider him to be a top 10 player, just not a top five player. What keeps him in my top 10 is the fact that he is a shortstop and there are very few shortstops that have his skill-set. Expect to see a .300 BA/25 HR/ 100 RBI season out of Tulowitzki this season, but it appears his speed is a thing of the past after two straight seasons of declined stolen bases.
Be sure to check back later in the week as I add to my overall top 100 player rankings for the 2012 season!
Matthew Beck is a Fantasy Sports Columnist for Rotoinfo.com. If you have any questions or comments feel free to e-mail him at¬†email@example.com.¬† Also follow him on Twitter @MatthewRBeck for up-to-date Q&A and fantasy information.
The Diamondbacks brought the bats to their home opener at Chase Field Friday night with a 13-2 win over the Reds.
Arizona scored early as Willie Bloomquist led off the game with a double and Justin Upton drove him in on a single.¬† Stephen Drew, who returned from an abdominal injury, doubled to drive in Upton which gave the Diamondbacks a 2-0 lead through the first inning.
Arizona catcher Miguel Montero doubled to center field to lead off the second inning and scored on a wild pitch thrown by Cincinnati starting pitcher Travis Wood to make it 3-0 Arizona.
First baseman Xavier Nady doubled in the sixth inning which scored Upton and Chris Young to increase their lead to 5-1.¬† The D-backs added one more in the inning on a sacrifice fly by Melvin Mora.
Upton blasted his second home run of the young season that hit the left field foul poll to give the Diamondbacks a 7-1 lead in the seventh inning.
The fun truly began in the bottom of the eighth as Nady and Montero belted back to back doubles to raise the lead to 8-1.¬† Juan Miranda drew a pinch hit walk and Bloomquist singled to center field which scored Montero.¬† Kelly Johnson crushed a three-run home run to right field to put his stamp on the game; 12-1 Diamondbacks.¬† Two batters later Young wanted one more taste of the food at the party as he slugged his first home run of the year to left field to cap off a six run inning and make it 13-1 Diamondbacks.
Starting pitcher Ian Kennedy was outstanding as he controlled one of the best offenses in the National League all night.¬† The Arizona right-hander struck out nine Cincinnati batters and gave up only one earned run in eight strong innings to earn his first win of the season.
Nine of Arizona‚Äôs 13 hits were extra base hits.
The win improves the Diamondbacks record to 3-3 through their first six games played.¬† Arizona will continue their series with the Cincinnati Reds Saturday as Daniel Hudson takes the mound for the D-Backs.
Reach Andrew Vigliotti at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit his website, www.ballgametalk.com, also feel free to interact with him on twitter @AndrewVigliotti.
Despite a ninth inning rally, the Arizona Diamondbacks fell short of a victory Saturday to the Colorado Rockies 3-1.
Arizona right-hander Daniel Hudson threw 101 pitches in six innings and gave up three earned runs.
Rockies catcher Chris Iannetta led off the third inning with a single to center field and eventually scored on an RBI double by Dexter Fowler.¬† Jose Lopez singled with one out in the fourth inning and two batters later Lopez was driven in on an RBI double to give the Rockies a 2-0 lead.¬† Jorge De La Rosa singled later in the inning to drive in a run which gave the Rockies a 3-0 lead after the fourth.
De La Rosa pitched a gem for the Rockies as he shut out the Diamondbacks for 5 1/3 innings.¬† The southpaw left the game in the sixth inning with a blister in his middle finger.
The Arizona bullpen kept the team in the game as they did not give up an earned run for the second consecutive game.¬† A positive sign even with the loss and something to keep an eye on as the season continues.
The Diamondbacks scored their only run in the ninth inning on a Ryan Roberts RBI single that scored Justin Upton from second base.¬† Russell Branyan almost hit the go ahead home run with two on base but flew out to the warning track to Fowler; Parra struck out to end the game.
The rubber match of the three game series is Sunday afternoon.
The Diamondbacks scratched and clawed to a 7-6 win in 11 innings against the Colorado Rockies Friday.
Ian Kennedy struggled early as he walked three batters and threw 51 pitches in the first two innings.¬† The right-hander settled into a groove as the game went on and gave up three earned runs in six innings pitched.
Rockies starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez controlled the Diamondbacks as he threw 36 pitches through the first three innings.¬† Arizona made adjustments as they were able to get runners on base for Justin Upton, who then crushed a three-run homer to left field to give the Diamondbacks the lead 4-3.¬† Jimenez, who also gave up a two-run homer to Miguel Montero, was finished after the sixth inning and gave up five earned runs.
The Diamondbacks owned a 6-4 lead as the bottom of the seventh inning started.¬† The Diamondbacks defense faltered in the inning as Ty Wigginton struck out on a pitch in the dirt, but a throwing error by Montero brought a runner home which should have ended the inning.¬† Jose Lopez, who homered in the sixth, followed the error with an RBI single to tie the game at six.
The Rockies had a chance to take the lead in the eighth inning as Seth Smith and Carlos Gonzalez both singled with two outs, but Troy Tulowitzki struck out to end the inning.
The tenth inning gave the Diamondbacks an opportunity to take the lead as Upton led off the inning with a double.¬† Chris Young followed with a controversial single to right field as replay showed Smith catching the ball; as a result Young had to hold at second even with the base hit.¬† Juan Miranda advanced both runners into scoring position on a sacrifice bunt.¬† Melvin Mora followed with a ground ball that resulted in Upton getting thrown out at home in a collision with Rockies catcher Chris Iannetta.¬† Montero struck out to end the inning.
Sam Demel came in and pitched a scoreless 10th inning for the Diamondbacks which brought us to the 11th inning.¬† Matt Reynolds, who finished the 10th inning for the Rockies, began the 11th and gave up a single to left-fielder Gerardo Parra.
Reynolds was relieved by Matt Lindstrom who then struck out pitcher Barry Enright as he attempted to advance Parra.¬† Shortstop Willie Bloomquist, who was in the lineup for the injured Stephen Drew, singled to right field and advanced Parra to third.¬† Lindstrom can be wild at times and proved it with a wild pitch to Kelly Johnson to the backstop that scored Parra.¬† Lindstrom would intentionally walk Johnson after getting behind in the count.¬† Upton and Young both followed with strike outs to end the inning.
J.J. Putz came into the bottom of the 11th and shut down the Rockies in order to earn his first save as a Diamondback.
It is only the first game but Arizona needs to tighten up on defense and make accurate throws.¬† Montero‚Äôs poor throw to first in the seventh that went into right field would have ended the inning if properly executed.¬† Both teams struggled with runners in scoring position, but the Diamondbacks came through in the clutch in extras to start off the season on the right note.
Arizona and Colorado continue their series Saturday evening.
The Arizona Diamondbacks finished last place in the NL West last season with a 65-97 record.¬† It will be tough to compete for a division title this season, but the Diamondbacks have some good pieces to continue to build around.
Justin Upton is the big name player to watch in Arizona.
Upton, who was drafted first overall by the Diamondbacks in the 2005 first-year player draft, is entering his fourth full major league season.¬† The right-fielder‚Äôs best season was in 2009 when he hit .300 with 26 home runs and 86 RBI.
Upton‚Äôs stats were down in 2010 as he homered 17 times and drove in 69 runs with an average of .273.¬† The 23-year-old will have a lot of pressure to produce and the Diamondbacks will need him to do just that if they want to climb out of the division cellar in 2011.
Chris Young is another key component in Arizona‚Äôs lineup.¬† The 27-year-old was named to his first all-star team last season.¬† Young homered 27 times and drove in 91 runs. The key for the centerfielder is to put the ball in play and limit his strikeouts.¬† Young‚Äôs average was .299 when the ball was put in play, but the 145 strikeouts lowered his average to .251 in 2010.
Young is a very talented and if he shows more discipline, then he will be an even better player.
Their starting rotation consists of Ian Kennedy, Barry Enright, Daniel Hudson, Joe Saunders and Armando Galarraga.
Enright posted an ERA of 4.43 in six total appearances (four starts) in cactus league play.¬† In 17 starts last season, the right-hander posted a 6-7 record with a 3.91 ERA.
The Diamondbacks ranked near the bottom of the majors last season in team ERA (4.81).¬† The bullpen ERA was (5.74) in 2010 which was by far the worst in baseball; to get an idea of how bad it was the second to worst bullpen ERA was the Chicago Cubs (4.72).
The projected closer this season is J.J. Putz.¬† The 34-year-old would fill a gap in the back of the bullpen.¬† The 2007 all-star recorded a 7-5 record with a 2.83 ERA with the Chicago White Sox last season.¬† Putz recorded 76 saves combined in 2006 and 2007 including a 40-save season with Seattle in ‚Äô07.¬† The Diamondbacks hope to avoid injury with Putz as he missed most of the 2009 season with the Mets due to a bone spur in his right elbow.
Chad Qualls, who is no longer with the team and Juan Gutierrez combined for only 27 saves in 2010.
The Diamondbacks are hoping that Putz can save at least 27 games by himself and strike a fear that teams did not have last season when forced to rally in the ninth inning.
Justin Upton will hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases. Justin Upton has the ability to hit 30 home runs.¬† He has yet to eclipse 30 in a season, but is only 23 years old and reached 26 homers in 2009.¬† Upton‚Äôs career high in stolen bases is 20 in 2009; he swiped 18 in 2010.¬† Upton has never reached the 140 games played mark in a season.¬† If the young Diamondbacks outfielder can play around 150 games, it will be known to everyone that he is a 30/30 guy.
Daniel Hudson wins 15 games in 2011. The 24-year-old from Lynchburg, Virginia, combined for an 8-2 record with an ERA of 2.45 with the White-Sox and Diamondbacks last season.¬† In 11 starts with Arizona, Hudson won seven games and posted an ERA of 1.69.¬† The right-hander‚Äôs strikeouts per nine innings was just under eight and his strikeout to walk ratio was 3.11 last season.¬† Hudson has a lot of upside and I project him to have a very good year for Arizona.
The Diamondbacks win 80 games this season. Arizona will miss the power of Mark Reynolds and Adam Laroche as they combined to hit 57 home runs last season, but they will not miss their strikeout totals.¬† The two corner infielders struck out a combined 383 times last season.¬† The Diamondbacks recorded the most strikeouts as a team (1529) in 2010.¬† Arizona ranked third in the national league in home runs (180).¬† If the Diamondbacks can put the ball in play more they can generate more base runners, and with the power that they possess drive in more runs to help their pitching and hopeful renewed bullpen.¬† If Arizona can execute this plan, we will see an overall improvement in their hitting which will boil over to their pitching.¬† The Diamondbacks have a mix of younger players and veteran players which can be good for a team looking to improve.¬† Kirk Gibson takes over as manager in his first full season.¬† He was the bench coach of the Diamondbacks in 2009 and Detroit Tigers from 2003 through 2005. Gibson was named manager after the organization fired A.J. Hinch during the 2010 season. The former first round selection played 17 major league seasons and won the 1988 NL MVP with the L.A. Dodgers. He will be a positive influence for all the players because of his baseball resume.¬† The players will respect him and want to play for him.¬† After a 65-97 record in 2010, Arizona has a chance to take a step forward and win 80 games in 2011.