Christmas is only a few days away, which means that the new year is speedily approaching, which means that fantasy baseball draft prep season is right around the corner! Let’s look at some early ADP data from Mock Draft Central and see what the first round is shaping up to look like as we head toward 2012.
1. Matt Kemp – A good choice here given his age and 2011 breakout. However, now that he has his big long-term contract, will the focus remain? Talent was never the question. .380 BABIP from 2011 not likely to stick, but .290-.300 30/30 could be the baseline with obvious 40/40 upside.
2. Ryan Braun – The opposite of how the MVP voting ended (Braun ahead of kemp). Interesting. This ranking will change, of course, if Braun’s pending 50 game suspension is not lifted.
3. Albert Pujols – In a “down year” he hit .299/.366/.541 with 37 homers. Spike in ground ball rate and chase rate have to be a concern, but then again 2011 could very well just be an outlier season until age catches up.
4. Miguel Cabrera – After his 2010 season ended in a cloud of controversy (drinking problems), M-Cab stayed out of trouble and put up what might have been an MVP season in most years. He’ll be 29 in April, still in his prime with 40 home run potential, and has a tremendous plate discipline skill set trending in the right direction. Given the difference in age, and that Pujols has to learn a new league, I’d go Miggy over Pujols in 2012.
5. Jose Bautista – Joey Bats silenced any critic that said his 2010 season was a fluke by putting up a line of .302/.447/.608 with 43 home runs. Unlike 2010, however, his numbers didn’t improve in the second half. In fact, Bautista hit only .257/.419/.477 with 12 home runs after the all-star break — granted, a .419 OBP is always awesome, but most leagues don’t go with that stat, though they should, which is an argument for another day…anyway — so it would be a lot to expect a .290-.300 AVG from Bautista again in 2012. He is still mostly a pull, fly-ball hitter, which also increases the risk in his AVG. OBP leagues, however, shouldn’t worry as much
6. Justin Verlander – Something is going to change with the way I rank and draft pitchers this season — given the surge in their numbers in the post-steroid era — but I’m still not confident enough in any of them to burn a first round pick. I have Clayton Kershaw ranked ahead of Verlander and he chimes in with an ADP of 16.
7. Adrian Gonzalez – Hard to argue with A-Gone in the second half of the first round given his 2011 season. What’s more is that he actually hit better on the road than he did in Fenway (and he mashed in Fenway as well). He also started 2011 with only one home run in April, which might have been a side effect of offseason shoulder surgery. Don’t expect the .380 BABIP to repeat itself, but don’t be surprised if we see .300/.390 with 35 bombs in 2012.
8. Troy Tulowitzki – Tulo continued to solidify his track record with his third straight season of at least .295/.370, 25-plus home runs. His 20 stolen bases in 2009 are probably a thing of the past, but .300 with 30-plus bombs out of a very thin fantasy position should garner number one pick consideration.
9. Justin Upton – It’s crazy to think that this guy is only 24 years old. Huge improvement in strikeout rate and a reasonable trend in fly-ball rate suggests that his 15 percent HR/FB rate might actually just be a starting point. Don’t be shocked if he goes 35-40/25 in 2012.
10. Evan Longoria – Clearly, early mock drafters are not fooled by Longo’s BABIP foiled 2011. Not only did Longo suffer from an extremely low .239 BABIP, but he missed 26 games with an oblique strain and still hit 31 home runs. At his premium position (3B), with his premium plate discipline skills/power combination, and at his age (26), he could easily turn into the number one ranking fantasy asset of 2012.
11. Joey Votto – There are almost no holes in his offensive game. The only thing holding his numbers back is the fact that opposing teams try to avoid pitching to him whenever possible.
12. Robinson Cano – Cano continues to feature solid contract and line-drive skills that make it easy to predict another .300/.350 season. However, he failed to hold his improved walk rate from 2010 and his 17 percent HR/FB rate from last season marked a career high, meaning that we might not see him crack the 30 home run mark in 2012. Still, he certainly warrants first round consideration, but I probably would pass on him here in favor of Pedroia or Kinsler a round later.