Matthew Pouliot

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Top 30 Rankings

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Presented today is a little taste of what one can expect from the Rotoworld 2013 Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide. Here's the top 30 from the overall mixed-league top 300 list. Among the many features included in the guide are top 250 lists for both AL- and NL-only leagues, 4x4 and 5x5 dollar rankings for AL- and NL-only leagues, a top 100 prospects feature, almost 1,000 player writeups and projections for about 1,500 players. It's the culmination of three months of hard work, so I heartily recommend it. And if you have and projection questions/complaints, hit me up on twitter @matthewpouliot.

30. Ian Kinsler (2B Rangers): Kinsler went from 32 homers and 30 steals in 2011 to 19 homers and 21 steals last year, but there wasn't as much decline elsewhere. He set new career highs in doubles (42) and triples (five), so the down home run year (19) was probably something of a fluke. As the leadoff man in the powerful Texas lineup, he's a sure bet for 100 runs scored should he stay healthy again, and injuries haven't been a factor of late; he's played in 150 games each of the last two seasons after never getting there previously.

29. Cliff Lee (LHP Phillies): Ridiculous 6-9 record aside, Lee remained a terrific pitcher last season, striking out a league-best 7.4 batters for each one he walked. That the Phillies have downgraded their defense by bringing in Michael Young for third base and Delmon Young for right field won't help any of their pitchers, but Lee is still about as good of a bet in WHIP as anyone and he can't be so unlucky when it comes to run support again. He's also topped 210 innings in five straight seasons.

28. Starlin Castro (SS Cubs): The Cubs are hoping this is the year that Castro takes a step forward, but even if he doesn't, he's still pretty valuable. While he sported the same OPS he did when he entered the league as a 20-year-old in 2010, Castro managed to post career highs in homers (14) and steals (25) last year, and now that he's batting third regularly, he's sure to be solid in RBIs as well as runs. I'm not expecting much of a breakthrough myself, but Castro is still a relatively safe pick with considerable upside.

27. Adrian Beltre (3B Rangers): Beltre's worst marks the last three seasons are a .296 average, 28 homers and 102 RBI, so what's not to like? Well, it is worth noting that his strikeout rate jumped back up last year, making a repeat of his .321 average seem a whole lot less likely. Beltre's RBI total should go back up with Josh Hamilton gone -- as great as Hamilton was, he didn't leave a bunch of RBI opportunities for the guys hitting behind him -- but the rest of his numbers will probably suffer a bit.

26. Yoenis Cespedes (OF Athletics): The A's have a crowded outfield situation to sort out, but Cespedes will certainly be starting somewhere and batting third on a regular basis. After returning from a hand injury, he hit .304/.366/.525 with 18 homers and 61 RBI in 381 at-bats over the final four months of last season. 30 homers, 100 RBI and maybe 20 steals should all be within reach for the slugging sophomore.

25. Jose Reyes (SS Blue Jays): Reyes had a quiet lone year in Miami, losing 50 points off his NL-leading .337 average from 2011. What he didn't lose was any time to injury, as he played in 150 games for the first time since 2008 (160 to be exact). Now in Toronto with the Jays, Reyes is looking at a period of adjustment as he adapts to facing AL pitching regularly. That should rule out another run at a batting crown. Still, this is the best offense he's played for and the best hitter's ballpark he's ever played in. If he starts in 140 games and hits .290, he'll justify this ranking.

24. Giancarlo Stanton (OF Marlins): Be careful here: Stanton is the best bet to lead the NL in home runs, but he could do that and still not be a top-20 player. For one thing, he's likely to be pitched around as often as anyone in the circuit, which could lead to greater frustration for a young player who is already unhappy about his current situation. For what it's worth, I have him projected with the highest OPS of all outfielders. Still, the lack of runs scored and steals drop him to ninth for fantasy purposes.

23. Jacoby Ellsbury (OF Red Sox): Ellsbury isn't injury prone as much as unlucky -- his broken ribs in 2010 were the result of an outfield collision with Adrian Beltre and last year's shoulder injury was caused by Reid Brignac falling on him at second base -- but the fact remains that he never showed anything close to his 2011 form after returning last season. Ellsbury was a monster two years ago, hitting .321 with 32 homers, 119 runs scored, 105 RBI and 39 steals. He'll probably never reach those heights again, but if he can get back to 20 homers, there's a pretty good chance he'll be a top-five outfielder.

22. David Price (LHP Rays): Price's Cy Young campaign wasn't out of line with what he had done before; he simply combined 2011's strikeout and walk rates with his superior home run rate from 2010. He hasn't had any hints of arm problems since arriving in the majors and the Rays have been pretty careful with his workload, so he looks like a safe choice to lead any fantasy staff.

21. David Wright (3B Mets): While Wright did hit 29 homers in 2010, his 2012 season was more in line with what one expected from him during his 2005-08 heyday. Wright hit .300 and never topped 120 strikeouts in each of those four years. He did the same last season after a three-year run in which he fanned about twice as often as he walked. Unfortunately, Wright isn't getting a lot of help from his teammates, so he'll probably fall short of 100 runs scored and RBI again this year. He still ranks as the NL's top third baseman here.

20. Jose Bautista (OF Blue Jays): Bautista says his surgically repaired wrist is back to full strength after he played in just 92 games last season. If that's the case, then he has a chance to threaten his career high of 124 RBI behind newcomers Reyes and Melky Cabrera in the revamped Toronto lineup. Still, it should be noted that he was hitting just .244 before getting hurt last year; as a two- or three-category player, he might not match the truly elite fantasy outfielders.

19. Cole Hamels (LHP Phillies): No longer overshadowed by Roy Halladay and Lee, Hamels looks like the best bet of the Phillies starters for 2013. The 29-year-old southpaw hasn't posted an ERA over 3.06 since 2009, and he struck out a batter an inning for the third time in his career last season. That he experienced a little shoulder soreness in his early offseason workouts is something to watch out for this spring, but he says he's been fine ever since.

18. Stephen Strasburg (RHP Nationals): On a per-inning basis, Strasburg projects as the game's top fantasy starter this year. His strikeout rate last year was the best of any starter since Kerry Wood in 2003, and he hasn't reached his ceiling yet. The problem is that the Nationals still need to keep a close eye on Strasburg's workload, particularly since they hope to have him starting games deep into October. I have him projected to throw about 180 innings, which makes him the No. 3 SP.

17. Buster Posey (C Giants): The lone catcher in the top 30, Posey is coming off a batting crown, an MVP award and a second world championship in his age-25 season. Topping that figures to be extremely difficult, but Posey keeps himself in the lineup more than most catchers by playing first base once or twice a week and he's got better hitting around him than ever before. With most of the other top catchers residing in the AL, Posey leaps over the next three players here in NL-only leagues.

16. Hanley Ramirez (SS-3B Dodgers): Three consecutive disappointing seasons for Ramirez might make this ranking something of a reach. Still, it's hard not to be tempted by the upside. While Dodger Stadium isn't a great ballpark for offense by any means, it is the best home run park Ramirez has played in to date, and it looks like he'll probably be hitting fifth behind Matt Kemp and Adrian Gonzalez, giving him a great deal of RBI potential. Ramirez doesn't have to resume hitting .330 with 30 homers to be worth a second-round pick; .290 with 25 HR and 20 SB should be good enough.

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