The top of the MLB fantasy draft is as wide open as it's ever been.
There is one piece of unfinished business that remains in the fantasy baseball world — and no, it's not where Manny Ramirez will sign. It is the pending final decision on NL MVP Ryan Braun's 50-game suspension. Braun's potential absence has certainly affected his fantasy ranking, placing him at No. 71 overall.
While Braun's potential fantasy value for the 2012 season is up for debate, another interesting debate that is developing is who's No. 1? Three different players – Miguel Cabrera, Matt Kemp and Albert Pujols – received first-place votes among the eight different sources used to compile Athlon's big board. In addition, none of the trio was ranked lower than fourth. What does that mean, you ask? How about a three-way tie for the top spot?
Since there is no tying in baseball, there aren't any on Athlon's big board, either. Using Athlon's rankings as the tie-breaker, Pujols ascends to the top spot followed by Kemp and then Cabrera. So while Kemp could post a 40-40 season and Cabrera now has Prince Fielder hitting behind him, the consensus, for now anyways, is that The Machine, is still No. 1.
The Athlon Sports Big Board only proves that the uncertainty atop the first round is more cloudy than it has been in years. So we went around the Athlon office — which claims more than a few sick and twisted fantasy junkies — and polled the gurus about the first pick in the 2012 draft.
Who would you take with the first pick in the 2012 MLB fantasy draft?
This season I think you can make a strong case for five different players, including Jose Bautista and Troy Tulowitzki because of their respective positions. However, in the end it’s probably a three-horse race between Miguel Cabrera, Matt Kemp and Albert Pujols. A month ago I would have said Pujols since I think he’ll be able to make the adjustment from the National League to the American League just fine. But that was before Detroit signed Prince Fielder, who will team with Cabrera in the middle of the Tigers’ line up and do even more damage than Miggy and Victor Martinez did last year. Besides it’s not like Cabrera (.344, 111 R, 48 2B, 30 HR, 105 RBI, 108 BB, .448 OBP, .586 SLG, 1.033 OPS) was some sort of a slouch as a hitter last year in the first place. Cabrera is my choice if I was picking first.
Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers and Albert Pujols of the Angels are probably the safest choices at No. 1 in your draft. A stat line of .300-30-100-100 seems like a lock for either one of the prodigious sluggers. Cabrera should hit for a better average, while Pujols is likely to launch more home runs. However, I could see the move to third base leveling off Miggy’s stats just a little bit. I could also see Pujols, whose numbers have declined across the board over the last two seasons, needing some American League adjustment time and battling some nagging injuries. Consequently, I would take Matt Kemp and his 40-40 potential with the top pick. There is a little more risk involved (we all remember his “Rihanna” season of 2010), but I see Kemp as the consummate 5-tool player in his prime. I think he will replicate the above stat line, but his 30+ extra steals should be worth more to your team than the higher batting average of Cabrera.
Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera was already the safest bet in fantasy baseball — with a career .317 batting average, .950 OPS and eight full-season averages of 33 HRs, 115 RBIs and 158 games played per season. Now Cabrera has Prince Fielder protecting him from the cleanup spot in Detroit's lineup and is only a few games away from having third base eligibility. Listed at 6'4" and 240 pounds, Cabrera reportedly lost roughly 20 pounds this offseason in preparation for his move to the hot corner. Miggy is in the best shape of his playing career and in his prime at only 29 years old. I'm expecting a career year, which by Cabrera's standards would be a stat line worthy of the MVP award — in the American League and your fantasy league.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
It is hard to argue with Miguel Cabrera's consistency, relative youth and potential third-base eligibility. However, when you compare the numbers to the newly minted $240-million man in Los Angeles, they actually pale in comparison. Albert Pujols has hit at least 37 home runs in nine of his 11 seasons. Cabrera has topped the 37 home run mark only once in his nine-year career. Pujols has nine seasons of at least 116 RBI as compared to Miggy, who has topped the 116 mark only three times. Cabrera turns 29 in April and has the age edge over Pujols — who recently turned 32 (ish) in January. Yet, off-the-field issues, a position change and weight concerns push me officially towards SoCal and The Machine. Additionally, Matt Kemp might be the most complete fantasy player but speed can be had on the cheap in 2012, so the premium in your draft should be placed on power. With Robinson Cano and Joey Votto having possibly the least downside of anyone, and Troy Tulowitzki’s position scarcity, picking anywhere in the top six should deliver a fantasy stud. But when in doubt I will go with the three-time MVP, two-time World Champion and six-time Silver Slugger.
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2012 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: The Big Board
2012 Fantasy Baseball: First Base Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Second Base Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Shortstop Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Third Base Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Outfield Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Catcher Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Starting Pitcher Rankings
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2012 MLB Fantasy Closer Grid