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Fantasy Baseball's No. 1 Pick; Not Pujols, Cabrera or Kemp


The Athlon staff debated who they would take with the No. 1 pick in the 2012 MLB fantasy draft today, but after 26 years of loyal service to Athlon Sports, Editorial Director — and fantasy baseball guru — Charlie Miller deserves a few extra words...

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So who would he take with the first pick in the 2012 MLB fantasy draft?

-by Charlie Miller (@AthlonCharlie)

There are three names that garden variety fantasy players will immediately consider Albert Pujols, Matt Kemp and Miguel Cabrera. And certainly solid choices all. But the three names that come to mind for me are: Robinson Cano, Troy Tulowitzki and Jose Bautista.

I’m going with Cano. Three simple reasons: He’s at the age and stage of his career that he continues to get better. He’s proven to be durable. He plays a premium fantasy position. Cano’s five-year average line is .304-23-96 with 95 runs, not bad for any position. His three-year average is even better: .314-27-104 with 103 runs. And for five years he’s played a minimum of 159 games. Consider also that he plays in a hitter-friendly park surrounded by a terrific lineup and you have all but guaranteed tremendous numbers. Tulowitzki gets serious consideration because of the dearth of solid shortstop options. But there’s a little bit of a durability question. I just can’t count on Tulo showing up for more than about 140 games.

Funny how perceptions change over time. When Jose Bautista was a rising star in the Pittsburgh organization (his second tour through), I thought he was a can’t-miss star. But repeated failures to make a splash at the big league level turned my opinions sour. Then after his breakout season with Toronto, I still was skeptical. Now I’m back on board. And with a .302 average and 25 starts at third base (giving him third base eligibility), Bautista can be a fantasy stud.

I’ve always stayed away from Cabrera. Both his demeanor and apparent physical condition scream of an imminent breakdown. But manager Jim Leyland keeps writing his name in the lineup and Miggy keeps raking. Now that he is apparently becoming eligible at third he’s even more attractive. Certainly Pujols has been the most consistent fantasy player for 11 seasons. I don’t see any major slippage, but Pujols is going from hitter-friendly N.L. Central ballparks to pitcher-friendly A.L. West parks. Something to think about. I expect Kemp to be a productive fantasy player for several years yet, but I suspect we have seen his best.

Debate: Athlon's Staff Debates the No. 1 pick in the 2012 MLB Fantasy Draft

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2012 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: The Big Board
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2012 Fantasy Baseball: Second Base Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Shortstop Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Third Base Rankings
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2012 Fantasy Baseball: Catcher Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Starting Pitcher Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Relief Pitcher Rankings
2012 MLB Fantasy Closer Grid