You ever lie awake at night and imagine what it would be like to own every pick in the first round of your fantasy baseball draft? Yeah, me too. Here's how my fantasy dream team would look for 2012:
DREAM TEAM LINEUP CARD
LF –> Jacoby Ellsbury: From an overall fantasy value standpoint, Ryan Braun should probably be the left field nominee. But Ellsbury offers this dream team some needed speed, so he slides over to left and settles in at the top of this vaunted batting order.
CF –> Matt Kemp: The No. 1 player in the Yahoo! fantasy game in '11 finished among the top 7 in MLB in all five standard fantasy categories (AVG., HR, RBI, R, SB). And he finished just one home run shy of becoming just the fifth member of MLB's 40-40 club.
1B –> Albert Pujols: Normally, a hitter switching leagues might be cause for concern – foreign environment, unfamiliar pitchers, etc. But we learned long ago that Pujols is no normal human being, if he's even human at all. Last season he hit .299 with 37 home runs, 99 RBI and 105 Runs, and that was the worst year of his career. We should all wish for "off" years like that.
DH –> Miguel Cabrera: I'm putting Miggy at DH because, well, you've probably already seen the video. At the plate, Cabrera is Pujols' statistical doppelganger, delivering an average of .320 with 33 home runs, 115 RBI and 102 Runs over his past eight seasons.
3B –> Jose Bautista: By virtue of his 25 games at the hot corner last season, Bautista gets the 3B nod here. His 54-home run breakout at age 29 is one of baseball's greatest rags-to-riches stories. And his 97 combined home runs in the past two years are 18 more than any other player.
2B –> Robinson Cano: Consistency is the name of the game for Cano, who has played at least 159 games in each of the past five seasons at the physically demanding 2B position. A line-drive machine, Cano has finished among the top 12 in extra-base hits in each of his past three seasons, and was second to only Ellsbury last season.
RF –> Justin Upton: By the ripe old age of 24, Upton already has two 20/20 seasons in the books at the MLB level. Last season's 31/21 effort helped propel him into the top 20 in the Yahoo! fantasy game. I'm heady with anticipation for what's to come during his impending prime years.
C –> Carlos Santana: Returning from a serious knee injury last season, Santana finished in the top four among catchers in home runs, RBI, Runs and Steals. And luck indicators, as well as pedigree, suggest that his .239 batting average from '11 should only improve.
SS –> Troy Tulowitzki: While early-season swoons and injuries have littered Tulo's past, you can't argue with a bottom line that has produced an average of .304, 30 home runs, 97 RBI, 87 Runs and 13 Steals over the past three seasons. This nomination was made all the easier by Hanley Ramirez's collapse last season.
STARTER AND CLOSER
SP –> Clayton Kershaw: Video-game stuff pops to mind when watching Kershaw pitch. Last year's NL Cy Young – at age 23, the youngest NL Cy since Dwight Gooden in '85 – pulled off the rare feat of winning the pitching equivalent of the Triple Crown, pacing the NL in Wins, ERA and Strikeouts.
RP –> Mariano Rivera: Calling this a lifetime achievement nomination would be selling Rivera short. At MLB's most volatile position, Rivera is, perhaps, the only ROI guarantee. "The Sandman" has 28-plus saves in 15 straight seasons and has produced an ERA under 2.00 in seven of the past eight campaigns. For as long as he continues to don pinstripes, and throw that magical cutter, count on him proving gerontophobes wrong.
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