It seems for the first time in ages there is no clear-cut No. 1 pick in fantasy drafts. In early action, Miguel Cabrera, Matt Kemp, Albert Pujols, Troy Tulowitzki and Jose Bautista have staked their claim as most desirable. Each deserves to be in the conversation. The Yahoo! fantasy team, unsurprisingly, can't agree on which player should have his name called first. We debate the merits of each candidate below...
Pianow stumps for Miggy: I like the depth in the lottery spots this year. I don't see a major difference between what you can get at No. 1 and what you land at No. 4 or 5. When they pull my card out of the hat, I hope it's not the ace.
But someone has to be the No. 1 roto player on the board, and that person should be Miguel Cabrera.
Every player has upside in the lottery slots, but I'm more focused on floor. You don't want to blow it with your first pick. You don't want to invite unnecessary risk. And Cabrera's unbelievable run of consistency speaks for itself.
He's played eight complete seasons in the majors and here's the average stat haul: 158 games, .320 average, 101 runs, 33 homers, 115 RBIs. He's been in Detroit for four seasons and here's the Motown Mean: 157.8 games, 100 runs, 34.75 homers, 115 RBIs. You're getting a durable player here, and someone whose production comes just about guaranteed.
Try to mix and match a bad season from Cabrera, you can't do it. He's never hit lower than .292. He's never hit fewer than 26 homers. He's never driven in fewer than 105 runs. And he's never missed any significant time, playing 150 games or more in every campaign.
Cabrera slides back to third to make room for Prince Fielder, but that doesn't push me away. If anything, it makes me covet Cabrera more — let's add some handy position eligibility to the mix. Cabrera has 389 big-league games at the hot corner, so it's not like this is a new gig. And if the demands of the new position encourage him to trim down preseason, all the better.
Why Cabrera over Matt Kemp? Miggy's done it for more years in a row and he's tied to a much better offense (Detroit outscored LA by 143 runs last year). Why Cabrera over Albert Pujols? Miggy is younger and already familiar with the AL. Why Cabrera over Troy Tulowitzki? Health concerns, mostly.
Cabrera doesn't turn 29 until the middle of April. The loss of Victor Martinez has been more than offset with the addition of Fielder. He's in the weakest division in the American League, which affords him limited exposure to the best pitching staffs (meanwhile, every AL Central rival was eighth or lower in ERA last year). What's not to like? Aloha, Cabrera.
Evans campaigns for Kemp: Kemp is a statistical god amongst mortals. Last year he was only a homer shy of joining The Bacne Three (Canseco, Bonds and A-Rod), along with Alfonso Soriano, in the ultra-prestigious 40-40 club. As a result, he was rewarded in November with an eight-year deal worth $160 million, or roughly two Rhiannas.
Prospective owners, too, should shell out big bucks to acquire his services.
His 2.19 value, according to Baseball Monster, bested No. 2 overall Justin Verlander by 0.24 points. That may seem like a negligible margin but consider this: It was the highest net worth by a player since A-Rod's 2.33 in 2007 and second-best since 2002.
Unbelievably, 2012 could be even better.
Kemp showed stark improvements in walks percentage ('10: 7.9, '11: 10.7) and success against curves, a pitch he struggled against historically. More encouraging, he knocked in 24 runs in September, his highest mark in any month last season, with Dee Gordon atop the lineup everyday. A full season with the speedster sprinting around the bases could push his RBI total over 130. Throw the likelihood of another .300 BA, 100 runs and 35-plus homers/steals, and he's a legit five-cat dynamo.
Bottom line: Kemp deserves to be the top dog. Remember, he's the same age as his jersey number (27), a point on the career arc that typically marks the beginning of a player's prime. His best season is likely still on the horizon. Also, it's important to remember outfield is not nearly as years past, especially in challenging leagues where up to five starters are needed.
In this election year, vote with your head. Elect Kemp.
Funston pines for Tulo/Pujols/Bautista:
A case to be made for Troy Tulowitzki — I've seen more than one draft, thus far, where Tulo was the No. 1 overall pick. And why not? We're talking about a player that has pushed .300, 30 home runs, 100 RBIs and double-digit steals each of the past three seasons. That kind of production is at least in the neighborhood of Miggy Cabrera's expectations, and you have to also consider it comes at a position where some owners are going to be forced to look at Dee Gordon, Erick Aybar or Stephen Drew as a starter. Those aren't bad players, but Tulo represents a huge step up from the bottom end of the starter real estate at the position. (Brandon Funston)
A case to be made for Albert Pujols — What really needs to be said here? C'mon it's Albert Pujols. The questions that come with jumping leagues and the age/injury history are the only obstacles keeping him from taking his usual place at the very top of the draft. If those questions don't concern you, then Pujols probably should be No. 1 with a bullet. Because, let's be honest, if the fate of mankind rested on the shoulders of one player being able to step into the batter's box and get a hit against some unknown pitcher from an alien planet, wouldn't a healthy Pujols be your first choice to represent Planet Earth? ( Funston)
A case to be made for Jose Bautista — You can draft Miggy and wait for that 3B-eligibility, or you can take a player with an average 5-cat line over the past two seasons of .280, 49 HR, 114 RBI, 107 R and 9 SB who already qualifies at 3B. Bautista's per 162-game HR average since September of '09 is 52. He's led the league in home runs each of the past two seasons and, at 31 years old, he's still well within the spectrum of his prime. And his 3B/OF dual eligibility gives an owner the option to go after a quality 3B later in the draft if a steal-of-a-deal at the hot corner lands in his/her lap. That may be but a minor positive, but every little thing counts when you are splitting hairs among these top 5 roto talents. ( Funston)
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