Matthew Pouliot

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Top 30 Rankings

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


15. Bryce Harper (OF Nationals): Harper's huge finish last year -- he hit .330 with seven homers and five steals in September -- did influence this ranking a bit, but he was going to be a top-10 outfielder regardless. While he's still probably a couple of years away from making a run at MVP honors, Harper should be a five-category fantasy outfielder at age 20. I have him at .292 with 28 homers, 101 runs scored, 90 RBI and 23 steals.

14. Justin Upton (OF Braves): Strictly looking at the stats, the move from Arizona to Atlanta should take quite a chunk of Upton's value away. After all, he's hit just .250/.325/.406 on the road, compared to .307/.389/.548 in Arizona in his career. Still, getting away from a Diamondbacks front office that was quick to find fault with him should do him good, and playing in the same outfield with his similarly competitive brother will definitely provide extra motivation. I'm expecting big things, though I did drop him from 11th to 14th post-trade.

13. Evan Longoria (3B Rays): Longoria has gotten MVP votes every year he's been in the league, and he likely would have recorded his highest finish yet had he stayed healthy last season. Double his 74-game totals and one gets 34 homers and 110 RBI to go along with a .289/.369/.527 line in 546 at-bats. Longoria has dealt with injuries each of the last two years, but he doesn't seem like a particularly high risk just yet. The best is likely still to come.

12. Adrian Gonzalez (1B Dodgers): No doubt about it: Gonzalez's power hasn't come all of the way back since shoulder surgery following the 2010 season. Still, that didn't stop him from hitting 27 homers in 2011, and while he did slip to 18 last year, he collected a career-high 47 doubles. Also, Dodger Stadium is a much better home run park for left-handed hitters than either Petco or Fenway. I see him getting back to 30 homers this year and finishing among the NL leaders in RBI.

11. Joey Votto (1B Reds): I don't have Gonzalez and Votto being quite as close as the list here suggests; there's a definite gap between the 11 and 12 spots. I see Votto posting the top OPS among first basemen, but all of the walks do cost him in the RBI department. Of course, having Shin-Soo Choo leading off rather than Zack Cozart or Drew Stubbs will help some there. He's the best bet among first basemen in average, and the 6-8 steals will help, too.

10. Justin Verlander (RHP Tigers): Verlander was the American League's best pitcher again last season; it just wasn't as obvious because the Tigers' defense was so much worse and he didn't get his usual run support. Unfortunately, the defense is still probably the worst in the league, but the offense should be better with Victor Martinez back and some of the guys at the bottom of the lineup likely to play better. There's always the chance that the big innings totals will catch up to him one of these years, but there's been no sign of it happening thus far.

9. Albert Pujols (1B Angels): That Pujols is in decline seems like a given. The shape of that decline is still to be determined. Pujols shook off a horrendous start to hit to hit .312/.374/.589 with 29 homers and 93 RBI in 119 games from May 15 onward last season. With Mike Trout leading off and Hamilton cleaning up, Pujols is certainly in a great spot to rack up prodigious run and RBI totals. I'm thinking there's a .300-35-115 campaign on the way.

8. Troy Tulowitzki (SS Rockies): Tulowitzki has been hampered by injuries in three of his six big-league seasons, making him the riskiest pick in the top 10. Still, there's been no decline in talent yet, and with Coors Field back playing as far and away the game's top offensive ballpark, there's a ton of upside here. Unless a rejuvenated Ramirez comes out to play, no shortstop is touching Tulowitzki in the power categories. He's the only shortstop I'm projecting to bat .300 and hit more than 25 homers. Besides Ramirez, I don't have another shortstop within 20 RBI of him.

7. Carlos Gonzalez (OF Rockies): Despite being limited to 127 and 135 games the last two years, Gonzalez has turned in three straight 20 HR-20 SB seasons. Of course, Gonzalez and Tulowitzki do go rather hand-in-hand here: both need the other to be healthy in order to justify this kind of ranking. But Gonzalez doesn't have any chronic injury problems, and he's done nothing but hit four years running now. It's hardly outside the realm of possibility that he could bat .320-.330 with 35 homers and finish as the year's No. 1 fantasy outfielder.

6. Robinson Cano (2B Yankees): First-round picks don't get any safer than Cano, which is a weird thing to write about a second baseman. Cano, though, has played in 159 games six years running. He's hit .300-320 and finished with 25-33 homers each of the last four years. Plus, he has extra incentive this year as he heads into free agency for the first time. I don't see that resulting in a career year, but he doesn't need to take a step forward; he just needs to keep doing his usual thing.

5. Clayton Kershaw (LHP Dodgers): Kershaw wasn't quite as good last season as in his Cy Young campaign in 2011, but advanced stats still say he was the National League's best pitcher. Then again, fairly common stats make the same claim: he led the league in ERA and WHIP both seasons. Kershaw has a better supporting cast than ever this season, so expect his win total to shoot back up. Don't go drafting inferior hitters when the No. 1 pitcher is up for grabs.

4. Matt Kemp (OF Dodgers): Kemp claimed he wanted to make a run at a 50 HR-50 SB season in 2012, and he looked like the game's best player for a month and a half before injuries struck. That he's coming off shoulder surgery makes him a bit of a risk entering 2013, but as long as he looks strong in spring training, it will be well worth taking the plunge. With so many possible All-Stars around him, Kemp could contend for the league lead in both runs and RBI while threatening 40 homers.

3. Miguel Cabrera (3B Tigers): The first Triple Crown winner in 45 years, Cabrera is a no-brainer high in the first round. Still, he's probably going to slip a bit in the power categories this year. Last year's home run and RBI totals topped his previous career highs by six and 12, respectively. Something more like his 2010 line of .328-38-126 could be in store for this year, and while that's definitely elite, it's not quite enough to overcome the steal totals of the two hitters above him here.

2. Ryan Braun (OF Brewers): Fresh off the steroid suspension that wasn't, Braun hit .319/.391/.595 with a career-high 41 homers last season. Key to the cause was that Aramis Ramirez was so effective in replacing Prince Fielder in the cleanup spot. Braun has compiled two straight 30 HR-30 SB seasons. He's hit at least .300 and scored at least 100 runs four straight seasons. He's topped 100 RBI in five straight seasons. And he's still just 29.

1. Mike Trout (OF Angels): I'm projecting Trout to decline in almost every category, but he still grades out first in my system. It helps that the Angels plan on having him open the season in the majors this year. As the leadoff hitter atop such a strong lineup, he's the best bet to lead the AL in plate appearances, giving him more chances to score and drive in runs. I'm projecting him to go from 30 homers to 26 and 49 steals to 43 despite the increased playing time, but with his batting average and possible league-leading run total, he gets the top spot.



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Matthew Pouliot is the Executive Editor of RotoWorld.com and has been doing the site's baseball projections for the last 10 years. Follow him on Twitter at matthewpouliot.
Email :Matthew Pouliot



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