The Top Five for 2012

Seeing that the season is here and the top five players are almost consensus top five players, I decided to combine the top 5 into one post. 

Key Stats

  • Jose Bautista has 97 home runs in the last two seasons. That is 18 more than the next best player in baseball (Albert Pujols). He retains third base eligibility in most leagues this season and he added batting average to his repertoire last season. 
  • There’s nothing like a get out of jail free card to radically change the value of a player. That’s what happened to Ryan Braun in this off-season. The NL MVP will have the whole world watching as he deals with any potential questions in a potential slow start regarding PEDs and the departure of Prince Fielder. Fielder’s departure won’t be all bad news for Braun fantasy owners. Braun easily stole a career best 33 last season, and with less to lose by stealing this season and more walks likely coming his way that total could approach 40 this season.
  • Matt Kemp and the Dodgers have the comfort of knowing that they have an owner who can pay them this season. Fantasy owners wouldn’t mind if Kemp had insecurity after what he accomplished last year. Going back to 2006, every player that has finished in the top spot in the player ranking (as Kemp did last year) has come back and had at least a top 25 seasons the following year. Pujols was number one two straight seasons. 
  • Speaking of Pujols, the move to the AL is somewhat watered down in terms of how it impacts him given the amount of time that pitchers change leagues and the fact that there is interleague play. He always has the spot light on him everywhere he goes, so dealing with one more thing (a big contract to justify) shouldn’t bother him. Last year was the worst of his career – and he was the 13th best player in fantasy baseball. Look for more RBI opportunities now that he has a number nine hitter that is not a pitcher. 
  • Then there’s Miguel Cabrera. A switch back to third base figures to be a disaster in the real game, but fantasy owners are salivating. Cabrera turns 29 in less than two weeks and has had one season without 30 home runs since 2004. He also hasn’t hit under .320 in more than three seasons. 
Skeptics Say:

  • Joey Bats won’t be able to combine last year’s average with the 2010 home run numbers. The big change last year was the fact that he cut down on his fly ball rate which sacrificed home runs for average.
  • Braun needs to show that he can handle being the man – the only man on the Brewers, and all while putting behind what took place last year. 
  • Kemp saw his BABIP and HR:FB rates jump last year. That happens when you have the best season of anyone in fantasy baseball, but can he sustain it? The line drive rate was better last season, so it’s possible, but I would think that 30 HR is closer to what he’ll get than the 40 he almost had last year.
  • Pujols is now 32 years old, and while he has said all the things you want to hear about aging (it is only motivating him), he is human. Pujols saw his walk rate drop pretty significantly last season, which can probably be attributed to lower patience when his numbers weren’t what the whole world is used to seeing.
  • Cabrera is the number one pick, but in a snake draft letting steals get that far away from you does force your hand a little later on in the draft (as opposed to taking someone that does it all like Kemp or Braun). 
Projection

Bautista: 103 R 39 HR 109 RBI 6 SB .275 AVG .980 OPS
Braun: 98 R 32 HR 102 RBI 29 SB .302 AVG .970 OPS
Kemp: 97 R 31 HR 105 RBI 33 SB .295 AVG .965 OPS
Pujols: 104 R 37 HR 119 RBI 7 SB .310 AVG 1.049
Cabrera: 108 R 35 HR 120 RBI 2 SB .323 AVG 1.015 OPS in 585 at-bats