Well, we are almost through the second full week in this young, Fantasy Baseball season so why not take a look at the top-10 players thus far courtesy of ESPN’s Player Rater. Small sample sizes can be used to make a compelling case for almost any player whether positive or negative. For example, Cleveland Indians’ deep sleeper, Danny Salazar (SP), has a 6.75 ERA and 1.93 WHIP through 9.1 IP. However, he has 14 K’s in that short amount of work which equates to an astounding 13.5/9 (K/9) ratio. Looking back at last year, Salazar compiled a staggering 65 K’s in only 52.0 IP for an 11.3/9 (K/9) ratio. Cases can be made that he is a bonafide WHIP killer OR a young pitcher almost guaranteed to reach the coveted 200K plateau. With hindsight to this comparison, let’s take the upcoming rankings with a grain of salt.
1. Emilio Bonifacio (2B/OF) – Chicago Cubs
.452 BA, 0 HR, 2 RBI, 9 R and 7 SB
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Bonifacio has always been a player rostered in many fantasy circles due to flashes of brilliance and an abundance of positional eligibility. This year, he is batting leadoff for the Cubs with very little competition trying to remove him from his coveted spot in the lineup. While the .452 BA is the main reason he is number one on this list it would be almost impossible for him to sustain it. Bonifacio owns a career .266 BA and this dates all the way back to 2007 so it’s a pretty large sample size we’re looking at. He has also never hit more than 5 HR’s in any season so you are getting absolutely no power along with his lackluster batting average.
PREDICTION: Bonifacio will cool off greatly, finishing the season as a reserve OF in 12+ team leagues.
2. Carlos Gonzalez (OF) – Colorado Rockies
.389 BA, 3 HR, 11 RBI, 9 R and 2 SB
I don’t plan on spending much time on players that are no surprise to be in the top-10. Carlos Gonzales is a perennial All-Star and early round selection in just about every fantasy format. The main knock on him and his counterpart, Troy Tulowitzki (who is already dealing with a quad injury), are their propensities to land on the disabled list.
PREDICTION: Carlos Gonzalez will finish the season as a top fantasy OF regardless of how much time he misses due to injuries (notice that was plural).
3. Michael Cuddyer (OF) – Colorado Rockies
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.415 BA, 3 HR, 10 RBI, 10 R and 0 SB
Cuddyer has started this season on a 10-game hitting streak and is leading MLB in runs scored. Not a bad person to be grazing in the outfield alongside CarGo, eh? Cuddyer has been around now for some time and has always proven to be a solid fantasy asset so long as he stays healthy. In 2009, Cuddyer reached his HR plateau while swatting 32 for the Minnesota Twins. Since then, he has yet to hit over 20 in any season and hasn’t played more than 139 games over his past three seasons. Lastly, Cuddyer batted an absurd .331 on the season. However, his highest BA dating back all the way to 2001 was .284 so it would be foolish to expect anywhere near a repeat of last year.
PREDICTION: Cuddyer will finish the season with the following slash line: .280/20/80. Sell high if you can now or use him as an OF3 in standard leagues.
4. Alexei Ramirez (SS) – Chicago White Sox
.421 BA, 2 HR, 9 RBI, 8 R and 2 SB
For a player that hit only 6 HR’s all of last season, Ramirez has already hit two this year in just 38 AB’s. From (2008-2011) Ramirez never hit less than 15 HR’s but has seemed to lose his power stroke over the past few seasons. It’s important to note that Ramirez is a very durable player, having 600+ plate appearances since 2009. He also holds a career .279 BA and is a lock for 20+ SB’s. Should he catapult back up to the 15+ HR range his final stat line could look like this: .280/15/70/75/20.
PREDICTION: Alexei Ramirez finishes the season as a borderline top-5 SS.
5. Mark Trumbo (1B/OF) – Arizona Diamondbacks
.250 BA, 5 HR, 13 RBI, 8 R and 0 SB
Well, Mark Trumbo is a career .250 hitter who just so happens to be hitting .250 right now. At least he isn’t one of the players on this list that teases with an unsustainable BA (cough Bonifacio). Mark Trumbo is on this list thanks to his power stroke. Since 2011, Trumbo has averaged 31 HR’s per season while seeing his RBI total increase from 87, 95 to 100, respectively. Trumbo’s dual position eligibility is an added bonus for a player with his power. There is no reason to believe that Trumbo won’t continue to mash a 30/100 season while gripping tightly to his .250 BA.
PREDICTION: Make sure to have a few high BA guys around as Trumbo’s BA dipped all the way down to .234 last year but the power is very real.
6. Brandon Belt (1B) – San Francisco Giants
.295 BA, 5 HR, 9 RBI, 9 R and 0 SB
A pres-season darling of many analysts, Brandon Belt is currently rewarding owners who didn’t have to pay a heavy draft day price for his services. In 45 AB’s this year, Belt has walked only one time while striking out 11 times. Whiffing at a 25% clip and almost never walking could be a balloon popper for those of us playing in OBP/OPS leagues. Belt holds a career .275 BA so it’s more than likely that he won’t be teetering around the .300 plateau too much longer. In 571 AB’s last season, Belt hit only 17 HR’s and plays in a park known for keeping the ball in. Not so sure that I buy into this huge breakout thing…
PREDICTION: Belt will be a solid fantasy contributor, but a 25/100 1B he is not (I just traded him in my home league for Michael Wacha).
7. Jose Abreu (1B) – Chicago White Sox
.300 BA, 4 HR, 14 RBI, 7 R and 0 SB
Now, here’s a player that I wasn’t able to get my hands on in any league this season but not because I didn’t want to (damn snake style drafts). We all know that the power is legite as he literally destroyed a baseball the other night (Google it) and had been doing the same in the Cuban Serie Nactional. In (2010-2011), Abreu set a Cuban HR record and was named MVP of the league. He defected in October of 2013 and has since sent Paul Konerko off to an early retirement. Abreu has only struck out 5 times this year and batted well over .400 in Cuba so there is no reason to think that the MLB .300 BA is unsustainable.
PREDICTION: A 30/100 season is a lock, I just wonder after a full season of MLB pitching, where the BA will finish.
8. Pedro Alvarez (3B) – Pittsburgh Pirates
.229 BA, 5 HR, 10 RBI, 8 R and 1 SB
Last season, Pedro Alvarez batted only .233 and had an almost (4:1) strikeout-to-walk (K:BB) ratio. This season, Alvarez is still only batting 229 but has a (6:6) ratio. With a sample this small, it is almost impossible to determine how that ratio will finish. Since receiving at least 500 AB’s, dating back to 2012, Alvarez has delivered 30 and 36 HR’s, respectively. One would think, with the hot start, that Alvarez will eclipse both of those numbers. Hitting 30+ HR’s in an improved Pittsburgh offense should almost guarantee 100+ RBI’s and a top-5 finish at the position.
PREDICTION: Almost the same as Trumbo, the power is no joke but you need to surround him in your lineup with high BA guys. Trust me, .230 BA’s that are in your lineup every day can almost ensure that you never win BA/OBP/OPS categories.
9. Paul Goldschmidt (1B) – Arizona Diamondbacks
.370 BA, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 8 R and 2 SB
This season, Goldschmidt has a slash line of .381/.438/.643 and even decided to give owners 2 SB’s to boot! I’m so glad I took McCutchen over him! I kid, I kid. There isn’t much else to say here. PREDICTION: Goldschmidt is a top-5 hitter and will finish the season the same way barring injury.
10. Giancarlo Stanton (OF) – Miami Marlins
.293 BA, 2 HR, 13 RBI, 7 R and 2 SB
Pretty interesting statistic on Stanton is that in 2012 with 501 AB’s he hit 37 HR’s. However, in 2013 with 504 AB’s he hit 26 HR’s. Not sure what to make of that but still found it interesting. What’s even more interesting is that dating back to 2010, these are the total amount of games he played in: 100, 150, 123 and 116, respectively. Let’s be honest here and agree that durability is not his strong suit. It’s also safe to say that minus Stanton’s 2012 .290 BA, he is a career .256 hitter. Miami’s lineup this season seems to be rejuvenated and may not be the offensive wasteland it once was. Still, I have a tough time believing Stanton eclipses the 100 RBI plateau considering his tendency to lose time to the DL and his lackluster BA.
PREDICTION: When Stanton is healthy and sporting a solid BA, I would be trying to sell because his name recognition alone returns more than it should receive.
Joe Costello is the MLB Co-Content Manager for @FakeSeamHead, the baseball division of the immensely talented @FakePigSkin crew. I can be contacted at @jcswigga to answer any of your fantasy baseball or football questions (I play that, too). I am also the commissioner for both baseball and football leagues so feel free to drop me a line on the most thankless job in the industry.