Opening Day is less than three weeks away, meaning the fantasy baseball season is quickly approaching. Drafts are going across the country, and probably the globe, and Athlon Sports' annual Baseball Preview magazine is available on newsstands everywhere.
Besides providing our comprehensive Fantasy Baseball Big Board, we also have our positional rankings, courtesy of Bruce Herman, straight from our magazine for you to peruse, utilize and scrutinize as we get ever so closer to hear those beloved words, "Play ball!"
A: FRANCHISE PLAYER — You need one to compete, two to win, three to dominate.
B: CAREER YEAR — Veteran with a strong possibility of delivering his best season.
C: SLEEPER — Could be a great acquisition at a price or draft slot below his true value.
D: ROADBLOCKED — Rank has been lowered because there is no current opportunity to play regularly.
E: DECLINER — Expect moderately to significantly worse stats than in 2012.
F: INJURY RISK — Has had a recent injury that could affect performance.
G: INVESTOR’S SPECIAL — Top prospect whose immediate impact may be minimal.
Batting stats are expressed AVG-HR-RBI-R-SB
Athlon Sports' 2013 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Third Base
1. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers(A)
The Triple Crown winner hasn’t actually hit a triple in his last 393 games. And Cabrera won only three-fifths of the AL Fantasy Quintuple Crown (runs and steals to Mike Trout). Guess we can live with those quibbles considering this four-category leviathan is the only player with a .320 AVG, 200 homers, 700 RBIs and 600 runs since 2007.
2. Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals(A,B)
Zimmerman continues to waft just a notch below his perceived upside. His best season to date has been .292-33-106-110 in 2009 for a 59-win team. Now 28 and swathed with his strongest lineup support ever, we’d gauge that as the lower end of his 2013 prospectus.
3. Adrian Beltre, Rangers(A)
Beltre claims his own version of the Triple Crown: He leads all players who’ve been primarily third basemen in AVG-HR-RBI-R since 2010. At 33, he continues to rake at an extraordinarily high level despite spitting on sabermatric spread sheets by collecting more home runs (68) than walks (61) the past two years.
4. Evan Longoria, Rays
Now that he’s healthy again and under contract until the game is being played with orbs and light sabers, the stage is set for Longoria to return to or exceed his .281-33-113-100 array of 2009. Lacks the batting average chops to be a genuinely elite fantasy force.
5. David Wright, Mets
Full-season average at Shea: .311-32-114-110-22. Four-season average at Citi: .284-26-86-95-23. The latter is now the template. In 2012, once his AVG fell below .400 on May 25, the $122 million man hit .273 the rest of the way. What a country.
6. Chase Headley, Padres(E)
The odds of Headley leading the NL in RBIs last year were about the same as the fastest man on Earth being named “Bolt.” Oh, he is? He did? Disregarding his stupid .308-23-73-56 second half, his career 150-game average is .268-11-60-62. Undoubtedly, he’s a better hitter now — but seriously?
7. Brett Lawrie, Blue Jays(B)
Lawrie not only failed to take the next step, but he also staggered backwards. Regardless, we’re true believers. As a high-strung 23-year-old with sore ribs often miscast atop the order, he had plenty of pretexts for a so-so soph season. Toronto’s refortified lineup, which includes Jose Reyes to relieve him of leadoff chores, will unclutter his path.
8. Aramis Ramirez, Brewers(E)
A poor man’s Beltre — a little older, slightly less productive. Has had months, even years, when he appeared to be toast — but in the second half of 2012 (.990 OPS), he was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Unrepeatable.
9. Martin Prado, Braves
Prado will hit fewer home runs than any third baseman in the top three tiers. Deal with it. If he splices all of his career highs together — not out of the question — he’ll provide a .307-15-70-100-17 line. Know how many players managed that in 2012? Three — names of Trout, Braun and McCutchen.
10. David Freese, Cardinals
Above-average in four categories, distinctive in none. Older than you think; turns 30 in April despite having played just one complete season.
11. Pablo Sandoval, Giants
A climactic postseason glossed over a vanilla regular slate diminished by his customary combat with injuries and calories. Tier 2 upside with low reliability.
12. Will Middlebrooks, Red Sox
An up-and-comer whose fine 75-game body of work is, after all, just 75 games. A 5.4 SO-to-BB ratio insinuates caution at this early stage.
13. Pedro Alvarez, Pirates
Low-contact lumberer whose value is concentrated in his 30-longball lumber, at least for the moment. Had .644 OPS and 31 strikeouts in September, so evidently he’s still searching.
14. Mike Moustakas, Royals
Clawed his way to 20 homers in his first full season, but batted .224 in his last 112 games — primarily because of indiscriminate pitch selection and an inclination to lob everything into the air. Possibly overhyped.
15. Todd Frazier, Reds
Later-blooming version of Moustakas with analogous glitches and a parallel late-season fade — but with a stat-twisting six-week torrid streak that may have cloaked a soft underbelly.
16. Kyle Seager, Mariners (E)
17. Manny Machado, Orioles
18. Kevin Youkilis, Yankees
19. Lonnie Chisenhall, Indians (C)
20. Michael Young, Phillies
21. Jordan Pacheco, Rockies
22. Chris Nelson, Rockies (C)
23. Trevor Plouffe, Twins
24. Jeff Keppinger, White Sox (E)
25. Josh Donaldson, Athletics
26. Alex Rodriguez, Yankees (E,F)
27. Ian Stewart, Cubs (F)
28. Matt Dominguez, Astros
29. Luis Cruz, Dodgers
30. Alberto Callaspo, Angels
31. Juan Francisco, Braves (C)
32. Pedro Ciriaco, Red Sox
33. Eric Chavez, Diamondbacks
34. Chris Johnson, Diamondbacks (E)
35. Placido Polanco, Marlins (F)
36. Greg Dobbs, Marlins (E)
37. Josh Vitters, Cubs (G)
38. Nate Freiman, Astros (G)
39. Danny Valencia, Orioles
40. Brent Morel, White Sox
2013 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Big Board
2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Infield
2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Outfield
2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Starting Pitcher
2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Relief Pitcher
2013 Fantasy Baseball: Closer Grid
2013 Fantasy Baseball Deep Sleepers
Fantasy Baseball Studs to Avoid in 2013