Since the early ’90s, fantasy baseball has become popular among fans of the game, and gains a larger following each year.
The common fantasy forms are “rotisserie”, in which the so-called “owners” accumulate points based on the performance of their chosen players during the season, or “head-to-head”, which pits players in the league against each other based on various statistics.
“I started playing it a few years back, and every year my buds and I play together for bragging rights,” says Mike Benson, a first-year philosophy student.
So how can you win in your league and get those bragging rights? Here are the top players at each position, for standard 5×5 rotisserie leagues.
Buster Posey is your man; the 2012 NL MVP hit .336, with 24 homers and 103 RBIs. While his team’s lineup isn’t ideal, he should have plenty of chances at RBIs while batting behind guys like Ángel Pagán, Marco Scutaro, and Pablo Sandoval. But keep in mind that catchers are much more susceptible to injuries, so one nasty collision can knock your stud out for the whole year.
Plan B: Matt Wieters, who can provide more than 20 homers and 80 RBIs, or Joe Mauer, a batting machine when he isn’t injured.
I’m tempted to recommend Albert Pujols, but he was showing some effects of age last season stumbling out of the gate. Instead, I’d go for 28-year-old Prince Fielder, who hit .313 while slugging 30 homers and driving in 108. While Pujols drives in Mike Trout and Howie Kendrick (and maybe Josh Hamilton, depending on where he bats), Fielder plays with Austin Jackson, Miguel Cabrera, and Victor Martínez. When in doubt, go for the younger guy.
Plan B: Paul Konerko, who hits .300 with 30 homers yearly, or Mike Napoli, who should get a boost from the Green Monster of Boston and can give you some insurance at catcher position.
Robinson Canó has everything but stolen bases. Last season, he hit .313 with 33 homers, 94 RBIs, and 105 runs. Canó is helped by the short porch in New York, and he is no slouch on the road. In fact, he scored more runs and had a higher batting average on the road. Did I mention that he’s in the last year of his contract? Nothing will stop the Scott Boras client from tearing it up.
Plan B: Former Blue Jay Aaron Hill, who scored 93, drove in 85, and hit 26 round-trippers while hitting .302, or Dustin Pedroia, who’s a good bet for .300, double-digit homers, and over 90 runs.
Miguel Cabrera, without hesitation, is the best choice for third. The Triple Crown winner and 2012 MVP winner (though not the most valuable player according to WAR) is in the prime of his life. Good luck finding another third baseman who can put up .300 with 30 homers, 100 runs scored, and 100 RBIs with ease.
Plan B: Adrián Beltré or Evan Longoria are good bets for 25 homers and 90 RBIs.
Troy Tulowitzki is a rare shortstop who can hit for both power and average. Granted, playing in Coors Field can significantly boost your stats, but there’s no point deduction for home parks. What more could you want in a shortstop?
Plan B: José Reyes, a great source of runs and stolen bases, or Asdrúbal Cabrera, who can do a bit of everything.
Bryce Harper would be a good choice had he not looked lost against sliders in a game last season, fanning five times against lefty pitchers. Mike Trout, on the other hand, was hot throughout the entire season, and finished as the unanimous AL Rookie of the Year (and also more valuable than Melky Cabrera according to WAR). Even if he doesn’t hit as many homers again, he should have a great year, providing batting average, stolen bases, and runs. Also, it doesn’t hurt that he has Josh Hamilton and Pujols to drive him in.
Plan B: Josh Hamilton, who should have at least one more great year left in him, or Justin Upton, who might finally realize his potential after uniting with his brother in Atlanta.
Stephen Strasburg is a great choice. Without an innings restriction this year, the young phenom will have nothing in his way. Leading the league in strikeouts per nine innings, he should be a great source of wins, strikeouts, ERA, and walks and hits per inning. Strasburg is even more appealling if you’re playing in a keeper league.
Plan B: David Price, the 2012 AL Cy Young and winner of 20 games, or Gio González, Strasburg’s teammate and another winner of 20 games.
While Craig Kimbrel is bound to regress, he will likely still have an awesome season saving games for the Braves. The young fireballer strikes out an astonishing 16.7 per nine innings and allowed only 3.9 hits per nine innings—the same as his debut season of 2010. He should offer an abundance of save opportunities for Atlanta, who will battle Washington for the NL East crown.
Plan B: The immortal Mariano Rivera, or Rafael Soriano, the new Nationals closer and Rivera’s former deputy.
Choose your fantasy league players from this list, and fantasy victory may be in your future.