Barring some unforeseen circumstances, the top three players drafted in the overwhelming amount of fantasy drafts this season will be Ryan Braun, Mike Trout, and Miguel Cabrera. Or will it be Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera, and Ryan Braun? Or Miguel Cabrera, Ryan Braun and Mike Trout?
Well, you get the point. I’ll say right now that I believe this should be the Top 3, without question. But in what order?
The cop-out answer to this debate is to say that you’ll be lucky if you end up with any of these three studs. That’s not a false statement, but let’s really break this down (in alphabetical order) to see what order you should draft these guys in.
The Brewers’ left fielder is an absolute stud in all five fantasy categories. He’s gone 30-30 in each of his last two seasons. Heading into 2012, there may have been some doubt about his PED suspension and overturn that happened in that offseason, but his production during the season pretty much put any doubts about how good he is to bed.
Just to take a look at what kind of numbers you can expect from the Hebrew Hammer, take a look at his worst seasons in each of the five standard fantasy categories.
Runs: 91 (2007), HR: 25 (2010), RBI: 97 (2007), SB: 14 (2010), AVG: .285 (2008).
Now consider in that 2007 he wasn’t even called up to the majors until the last week of May. Also, keep in mind that the guy just turned 29, so he’s not exactly on the decline.
There are a few cases against Braun. One is that he relies a lot on Aramis Ramirez for protection in the order, and Ramirez isn’t exactly Prince Fielder. It’s true that Ramirez has been productive in each of his last two years, but he’ll also turn 35 during the season and has been more erratic through his career. If he declines, or gets hurt, teams can pitch around Braun and not have to worry too much about the repercussions.
Something else that works against Braun is that you realistically can’t project him to score as many runs or steal as many bags as Trout, and he probably won’t be as strong in the three Triple Crown categories as Cabrera.
While that’s true, he’ also doesn’t have a weak category, which isn’t really true for the others, although Trout is close. Still, I’d give RBI to Braun over Trout in a pretty big way, and steals to Braun over Cabrera in a bigger way. His fantasy numbers are more of a flatline, and it’s hard to get around that.
Two words: Triple Crown.
I know that that some fans and analysts don’t value that honor as much as others do, but the bottom line is that home runs, RBI, and batting average comprise three of the five standard fantasy category statistics. Having a guy who’s the best in the league (well, the American League) in all three is pretty valuable.
Also remember that unlike Braun, Cabrera does bat in front of Prince Fielder. So, he’ll see plenty of good pitches and when he gets on base, will have a decent chance of being driven in.
He may not repeat a Triple Crown again, although I wouldn’t bet against him. But Cabrera is pretty much a sure bet to be in the Top 5 in runs, home runs, RBI, and batting average every year. Like Braun, he’ll turn 29 during the season, so there’s no real reason to believe a decline is in order.
Working against Miggy is of course that he doesn’t steal any bases. That’s true, but that’s a category you can find on the waiver wire or late in drafts with guys like Brett Gardner, Rajai Davis, or Coco Crisp. If you have a guy like Cabrera dominating so many other categories, it’s worth it.
When you basically miss the first moth of the year and lead the league in runs and steals, you’re a great player. When you hit 30 homers, you’re a great player. When you drive in 83 runs despite missing the first month of the year and being a lead off hitter, you guessed it, you’re a great player.
The Angels are loaded on offense, so Trout will have tons of protection around him to help bolster the numbers. While Braun and Cabrera aren’t old by any means, Trout’s barely old enough to order a drink. The potential is amazing.
There are two negatives with Trout. One is that he hit .284 in August, and .289 in September/October. That doesn’t look bad at all, but he was well over .300 in May, June, and July, which were his first three full months of 2012. That’s a sign that American League pitchers may have found something to exploit towards the end of the year, which makes a sophomore slump a little more possible.
The other negative is that as a top of the order guy, he won’t drive in as many runs as Cabrera or Braun. Now, I know that he drove in 83 last year while missing most of the first month, but his 162-game pace was about 97. Great numbers for sure, especially for a lead off man, but not anywhere near Braun or Cabrera.
Also, with Josh Hamilton being added to a lineup that already includes launchers Albert Pujols and Mark Trumbo, it’s not impossible to imagine Trout’s steal numbers will decline. Even if he steals bags at a great rate, Mike Scioscia may be hesitant to risk giving away outs on the bases with that kind of talent in his lineup.
Still, Trout is an absolutely special talent. He has the raw skills to be a 40-40, or even 50-50 guy at some point. As a lead off man in a loaded lineup, he should blow by his runs scored total from last season. Considering he lead the league with 129, that’s pretty impressive.
I may end up eating these words, but I’m a little hesitant on second year players who took the league by storm as rookies. I will grant that nobody in recent memory has been quite like Trout, but there are always great rookies, and they frequently stumble in their second year. Remember, Chris Coghlan was the NL Rookie of the Year in 2009, and is now the third string left fielder on the razor thin Miami Marlins depth chart. Again, Trout’s much better than Coghlan, but second year slumps aren’t unheard of.
So that leaves Braun and Cabrera.
Of the two, the edge goes to Braun. He’s close enough to Miggy in all the categories Cabrera is better in, and significantly better in stolen bases. Yes, it’s true that with Cabrera’s incredible numbers you can bring in guys like Gardner, Davis, or Crisp, but I’d rather not have guys like that on my fantasy team if I can avoid it.
So again, I won’t be breaking any trends. These three players are my personal Top 3. As far as ranking them, this is how it looks.
- Ryan Braun
- Miguel Cabrera
- Mike Trout