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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Fantasy Baseball #1 Overall: Robinson Cano. Really.

Alright folks, this is going to be a little controversial so I thought I'd get in front of the wave of public anger that it is sure to invoke.  I'm ranking Robinson Cano #1 overall this year.

Not Mike Trout!?  Not Ryan Braun!?  What about Miguel Cabrera for goodness sake!?!?

Okay, let's back up a bit.  Here are the main criteria that I use to evaluate players:
  • Consistency, track record
  • Health history
  • Park factor 
  • Position scarcity
  • Stage of career
  • Surrounding lineup
Those are listed pretty much in the order of importance, though I will admit to bumping up position scarcity more often than I should.  Many experts don't see position scarcity as a very important factor when evaluating players.  They look only at raw statistics since all you are trying to do is compile the most statistics to win your league.

Fair enough, but I contend that the outfielder I will grab in the 2nd or 3rd round to pair with Cano will be a lot closer to the outfielder that I left on the board than any second baseman I would take to pair with that top outfielder.  The scarcity at 2B this year is really crazy, folks.  I just don't want to spend a 2nd or 3rd rounder on Ian Kinsler or Dustin Pedroia if I don't have to.  And after that it just falls off a cliff (though I do like Jason Kipnis and I think that Howard Kendrick will be a good value this year).

At outfielder, if you don't get Braun you can target guys like Jason Heyward, Adam Jones, Justin Upton, or Jay Bruce in the next several rounds.  There's a strong dropoff there, but not like the one at second base.  What I'm saying is that I'd rather have Cano and Heyward than Braun and Kinsler.

Now, a caveat.  If you pass up Trout in favor of Cano you are leaving a ton of stolen bases out of your squad's projection.  Historically SB's are coming from the middle infield and one of your outfielders, so you are going to have to supplement Cano with someone like Jose Reyes.  Keep that in mind.

I think with Cano you will get an average around .315 with about 30 HR's and more than 110 RBI.  He'll still give you solid runs at 2B (100?) and contribute a small number of SB's.  Those numbers are insane for 2B, but at this stage of his career he is a proven commodity that you can trust.

Which leads me to those other bullet points I listed.  Track record?  Excellent.  Healthy?  Absolutely.  Park factor?  One of the best (plus some great ones in-division).  Stage of career?  At 30 years old, he's in his prime.  Surrounding lineup?  I have my doubts about the average age on this team, but listen, it's the Yankees.

Add all of that up and throw in the competitive advantage you get at 2B versus your entire league and you have my #1 player for 2013.

I've got Cabrera #2.  He won the Triple Crown last year and plays third base, which is also a scarce position.  Yes, I will gladly take him if Cano is gone.  He can be a knucklehead, but even with a bit of regression his numbers are great across the board at 3B.

Braun?  Alleged PED issues from 2012 aside, this dude is a complete stud.  I see a regression in HR's, but he'll be in the neighborhood of 30/30 while hitting around .315 with about 220 in the R&R (Runs and RBI) stats.  Simply stated, he's better than Cano but being an outfielder drops him to #3.  I'd rather have the 2B or 3B and take my chances later at OF.  By the way, I'm not saying OF'ers are plentiful.  Far from it (especially if you start five).  I just think at the top of the draft where we are splitting hairs something like position scarcity can be the deciding factor.

Now Trout.  I don't believe he is in the same conversation as the first three and I'll explain why.  I do think his average is very much legit and that he'll hit around .320.  Also, the speed is real, even though his success rate was a bit higher last year than in the minors.  I've got him for 40-45 bags this year, and with that comes runs which ought to actually increase.  So, maybe around 135 runs?  The problem is the power surge we saw last year.  He hit 30 HR's with one coming every 18.6 AB's.  In the minors (including the lower levels) he only hit 23 in 1,117 AB's.  One HR every 48.6 AB's.  So, I see the HR's dropping significantly and with it I see his RBI cratering as well.  Honestly, 18 HR and 65 RBI seems generous when you look at what he did in the minors and his likely leadoff position in the order.  Besides everyone is doing their homework on him now.  He's a marked man.

What Mike Trout did in 2012 was the most amazing thing in the Internet era this side of Barry Bonds.  His performance was historic and breathtaking.  I still have him in the top 10, I just can't recommend him top 5 because I don't believe he can repeat it.  Especially the HR and RBI.