You Have To Do MO—Lina

They overpaid THIS MUCH!!!!

This could be biased but it probably isn’t due to the ridiculousness of the rumor.  Ken Rosenthal is reporting that the Cardinals have a five year extention worth $70-75 million with Yadier Molina.  Barf!  Molina has four straight Gold Gloves and posted a career high .814 OPS in 2011, but he remains a .274/.331/.377 career hitter, heading into his age 30 season.

Molina’s ability to  call a game and be an effective, defensive catcher aren’t in question, but how much is that worth?  And, more specifically, what does paying someone like Molina $15 million per season do for other players?  As guys like Prince Fielder and Edwin Jackson sat around waiting for a deal, you could wonder what the floor of a solid veteran was worth.  Jackson went from a five year, $75 million expectation to a one year deal with Washington.  Until Victor Martinez’s injury, Fielder looked like he would have to settle for a short term deal, too.  So, if Molina is worth $15 million a year, what in the world is Carlos Santana, Eric Hosmer, Andrew McCutchen, or any other young, established star going to be worth as they head towards Free Agency?

The MLBPA should be very pleased with this contract.  It is similar to what Derek Jeter was able to do – get overpaid by the team that developed him to create a Public Relations wonderland.  Jeter wasn’t worth a three year deal prior to 2011, and Molina isn’t worth anywhere near $15 million per season, nor is a 30-year-old catcher worth a five year contract.  However, MLB should step in on this type of contract.  It is going to hamper the Cardinals in the future, it is going to increase the value of lesser players, and it is going to set the standard for mediocre players to get paid high annual salaries for no reason.  These contracts are and have been reserved for the elite.  Molina is an elite catcher.  He isn’t an elite baseball player.  Eddie Perez was an elite catcher when he was the personal catcher for Greg Maddux.  He wasn’t an elite baseball player.  Molina isn’t Eddie Perez, but he certainly isn’t Mike Piazza, Johnny Bench, or, even Miguel Montero.


Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Third Base

Overall rankings will consist of the player’s value in a points format, earning points for each H, R, 2B, 3B, HR, RBI, basically a formula of Total Bases + RBI + Runs = Total Value.  Here are the rankings for 2B, projections are italicized:

1a. Jose Bautista, Blue Jays

.302/.447/.608, 24 2B, 2 3B, 43 HR, 103 RBI, 9 SB in 513 AB

.308/.454/.603, 29 2B, 1 3B, 38 HR, 112 RBI, 6 SB in 509 AB

Joey Bats should maintain 3B eligibility in some formats.  It’s doubtful that he’ll play more than 10 games at 3B unless Brett Lawrie gets hurt or goes all Travis Snider on the Blue Jays, deciding he can’t hit anymore.  Bautista has 97 HR the last two seasons and his lineup is getting better around him.  He could hit 50 HR again if he isn’t walked 132 times like he was last year.

1b. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers

.344/.448/.586, 48 2B, 30 HR, 105 RBI, 2 SB in 572 AB

.327/.431/.596, 49 2B, 37 HR, 121 RBI, 1 SB in 579 AB

He’s listed here due to the trial that Jim Leyland believes is going to work.  He’ll have 3B eligibility once he plays there and he will be the top 3B, along with Bautista.  You can’t go wrong with either of them, and Cabrera’s arrival to 3B makes the position strong once again…along with:

2. Hanley Ramirez, Marlins

.243/.333/.379, 16 2B, 10 HR, 45 RBI, 10 SB in 385 AB

.305/.380/.505, 37 2B, 3 3B, 24 HR, 85 RBI, 35 SB in 594 AB

Sure, he’s been declining/injured, but the guy is still just 28-years-old.  Ramirez is an elite level talent when he is playing to his abilities.  With Jose Reyes coming aboard and Logan Morrison becoming a top offensive talent, he has a lineup that he can become the catalyst within again.  This may be an over-the-top ranking, but even in a ballpark that we don’t know how it will play, you know that Ramirez is going to work to prove that 2011 was not who he is.

3. Adrian Beltre, Rangers

.296/.331/.561, 33 2B, 32 HR, 105 RBI, 1 SB in 487 AB

.311/.346/.594, 39 2B, 38 HR, 121 RBI, 1 SB in 591 AB

Why so high on the projections?  Because Beltre only played in 124 games last year and he posted his ridiculous power numbers.  A full season with Cruz, Kinsler, Hamilton, Napoli, and Young around him, if he stays healthy, would allow Beltre to join into a 1c role with Cabrera and Bautista.

4. Evan Longoria, Rays

.244/.355/.495, 26 2B, 1 3B, 31 HR, 99 RBI, 3 SB in 483 AB

.293/.401/.521, 33 2B, 2 3B, 38 HR, 113 RBI, 2 SB in 576 AB

Longoria struggled to get the ball where others weren’t last season, posting a BABIP of just .239 in 2011.  His career average is now .301, counting 2011.  He’s in for a huge return to glory.  Nevermind the fact that he is just 26, Longoria is already a top player in baseball.  If you have him in a keeper league…keep him.  He’s very likely to pass 40 HR in 2012.

5. Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals

.289/.355/.443, 21 2B, 2 3B, 12 HR, 49 RBI, 3 SB in 395 AB

.296/.361/.489, 42 2B, 4 3B, 22 HR, 91 RBI, 5 SB in 581 AB

If the shoulder holds up…No wonder third base looked so weak without Cabrera and Ramirez – Everyone else who mattered was hurt for portions of 2011.  Zimmerman is still within tier-one of 3B, but he isn’t capable of the outlandish numbers that the top five can put up.

6. Pablo Sandoval, Giants

.315/.357/.552, 26 2B, 3 3B, 23 HR, 70 RBI, 2 SB in 426 AB

.309/.361/.561, 36 2B, 3 3B, 27 HR, 98 RBI, 2 SB in 591 AB

Kung Fu posted solid numbers after healing from his wrist injury last year, developing and showing power that should excite his owners.  His body may continue to make people uncomfortable in “gambling” on him, but he posted his 2011 totals in 109 starts and 117 total games.  With Posey back and Belt replacing older junk on the Giants roster, he should become the heart of the order in San Francisco in 2012.

7.  David Wright, Mets

.254/.345/.427, 23 2B, 1 3B, 14 HR, 61 RBI, 13 SB in 389 AB

.281/.366/.485, 34 2B, 3 3B, 23 HR, 88 RBI, 15 SB in 564 AB

Move the fences in all you want, there isn’t going to be anyone to knock in when Wright comes up.  Davis and Duda are solid, but the Mets are going to struggle.  Wright is going to continue to be an injury risk due to his back issues.  He could very well be traded to a better team/ballpark, but you can’t count on those things.  He should be solid again, but it is doubtful that he is ever elite.

8. Alex Rodriguez, Yankees

.276/.362/.461, 21 2B, 16 HR, 62 RBI, 4 SB in 373 AB

.281/.366/.488, 32 2B, 2 3B, 26 HR, 91 RBI, 6 SB in 539 AB

He’s aging and declining but you can see that in 99 games in 2011, he was still productive.  You may want to handcuff him like a fantasy football running back with Eduardo Nunez, just in case, but ARod still has a couple of solid seasons in him…or the Yankees and their fans better hope so, given his absurd contract.

9.  Brett Lawrie, Blue Jays

.293/.373/.580, 8 2B, 4 3B, 9 HR, 25 RBI, 7 SB in 150 AB

.281/.349/.508, 34 2B, 6 3B, 24 HR, 91 RBI, 22 SB in 567 AB

Based on last season, Lawrie could be a 30 2B, 15 3B, 34 HR, 26 SB, .953 OPS guy.  It’s a small sample size, but that is probably his peak season.  He isn’t there yet.  He’s going to be valuable immediately and he will continue to improve, but don’t expect a 30/30 season in his first full year.  He’s an incredible athlete and should be fun to watch.

10. Aramis Ramirez, Brewers

.306/.361/.510, 35 2B, 1 3B, 26 HR, 93 RBI, 1 SB in 565 AB

.286/.354/.484, 28 2B, 1 3B, 24 HR, 87 RBI, 1 SB in 547 AB

Aramis had what I like to call a “contract year” (make sure you’re doing the Chris Farley as Matt Foley quotations with your fingers while you say that back).  Ramirez will be turning 34 in June and was signed for $12 million per season for three years with a mutual option for a fourth year.  The Brewers won’t want or need that fourth year.  Ramirez had issues staying healthy in the past and something tells me that this is going to end up like a Carlos Lee deal – he’ll end up at first base before the end of this deal, if not in 2012.  He won’t come close to replacing Prince Fielder, but the Brewers had to do something.

11. Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox

.258/.373/.459, 32 2B, 2 3B, 17 HR, 80 RBI, 3 SB in 431 AB

.279/.398/.488, 38 2B, 2 3B, 24 HR, 96 RBI, 4 SB in 576 AB

12. David Freese, Cardinals

.297/.350/.441, 16 2B, 1 3B, 10 HR, 55 RBI, 1 SB in 333 AB

.284/.339/.446, 25 2B, 2 3B, 18 HR, 74 RBI, 2 SB in 519 AB

Don’t be one of those guys who thinks that he is who he was in the postseason.  Billy Hatcher once had an awesome postseason, too.  Freese is 29 in April.  He is what he is and he isn’t going to get a whole lot better – an injury prone, late-blooming hitter who strikes out too much.

13. Mark Reynolds, Orioles

.221/.323/.483, 27 2B, 1 3B, 37 HR, 86 RBI, 6 SB in 534 AB

.231/.334/.491, 31 2B, 1 3B, 38 HR, 96 RBI, 5 SB in 547 AB

Reynolds can mash when he makes contact.  He’ll probably play more first base in 2012 than anything, and he may not even qualify for 3B in some leagues if you have position changes in season.  Reynolds will keep what he does best…strikeout and occasionally hit a homeless man outside of Camden Yards with a massive longball.

14. Chipper Jones, Braves

.275/.344/.470, 33 2B, 1 3B, 18 HR, 70 RBI, 2 SB in 455 AB

.301/.366/.484, 36 2B, 2 3B, 23 HR, 82 RBI, 3 SB in 501 AB

I can’t get over Larry calling out Jason Heyward for not playing hurt.  When ol’ Larry and Heyward are on the field together, magic will happen.  Look for one last solid season before Chipper disappears into the sunset.

15. Ryan Roberts, Diamondbacks

.249/.341/.427, 25 2B, 2 3B, 19 HR, 65 RBI, 18 SB in 482 AB

.257/.346/.439, 27 2B, 2 3B, 24 HR, 71 RBI, 16 SB in 543 AB

Roberts posted solid values last season across the board.  If you have a 5 X 5 league and can deal with his average, picking him late will allow you to focus on pitching/closers earlier.

16. Mike Moustakas, Royals

.263/.309/.367, 18 2B, 1 3B, 5 HR, 30 RBI, 2 SB in 338 AB

.286/.331/.411, 24 2B, 2 3B, 19 HR, 76 RBI, 4 SB in 566 AB

The guy was 22 for all of last season and struck out in just 14% of his AB.  He wasn’t overmatched, he just didn’t have a lot of luck.  He may not become an immediate All-Star, but he is going to begin hitting.

17. Chase Headley, Padres

.289/.374/.399, 28 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR, 44 RBI, 13 SB in 381 AB

.293/.376/.402, 34 2B, 3 3B, 9 HR, 61 RBI, 17 SB in 536 AB

18. Danny Valencia, Twins

.246/.294/.383, 28 2B, 2 3B, 15 HR, 72 RBI, 2 SB in 564 AB

.268/.324/.401, 31 2B, 3 3B, 17 HR, 76 RBI, 1 SB in 549 AB

19. Lonnie Chisenhall, Indians

.255/.284/.415, 13 2B, 7 HR, 22 RBI, 1 SB in 212 AB

.261/.301/.411, 21 2B, 14 HR, 69 RBI, 3 SB in 401 AB

Chiz may not start the year as the 3B in Cleveland.  That would be a shame since the other option is Jack Hannahan (barf!).  He is going to struggle against LHP and he may always be that guy.  He is someone that you’ll want to look ahead for matchups, like you should do with Matt Joyce if you own him.  Chisenhall has enough pop in his bat to be valuable while posting unimpressive AVG and OBP numbers.

20. Wilson Betemit, Orioles

.285/.343/.452, 22 2B, 4 3B, 8 HR, 46 RBI, 4 SB in 323 AB

.270/.334/.435, 26 2B, 3 3B, 14 HR, 63 RBI, 5 SB in 476 AB

I’ve always thought Betemit could put up solid numbers if he played every day.  He has enough power in his bat to offset the huge strikeout totals he would post, too.  He may be playing 3B everyday in Baltimore if the O’s do put Reynolds at 1B, so he is worth a look in deep leagues.

The Rest:

Alberto Callaspo, Angels; Mark Trumbo, Angels; Scott Rolen, Reds; Juan Francisco, Reds; Placido Polanco, Phillies; Ty Wigginton, Phillies; Ian Stewart, Cubs; Pedro Alvarez, Pirates; Casey McGehee, Pirates; Brent Morel, White Sox;

Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Second Basemen

Overall rankings will consist of the player’s value in a points format, earning points for each H, R, 2B, 3B, HR, RBI, basically a formula of Total Bases + RBI + Runs = Total Value.  Here are the rankings for 2B, projections are italicized:

1. Robinson Cano, Yankees

.302/.349/.533, 46 2B, 7 3B, 28 HR, 118 RBI, 8 SB in 623 AB

.315/.357/.549, 43 2B, 5 3B, 33 HR, 121 RBI, 6 SB in 616 AB

Cano is underrated.  Yeah, you read that right, I am saying that a Yankee is underrated.  Cano is the best player on the Yankees roster right now, and that is saying a lot with Granderson, ARod, Teixeira, and the rest.  He’ll turn 30 in November and he’s got a couple more years to reach his peak.  He’ll be at an MVP level in 2012.

2. Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox

.307/.387/.474, 37 2B, 3 3B, 21 HR, 91 RBI, 26 SB in 635 AB

.311/.389/.485, 38 2B, 4 3B, 24 HR, 96 RBI, 24 SB in 628 AB

Pedroia seemed like the only Red Sox player who didn’t collapse last September.  He continues to be a leader for the team and a nuisance to opposing teams.  He’ll turn only 29 in August, so he’ll continue to be a star with value across the board in fantasy leagues.

3. Ian Kinsler, Rangers

.255/.355/.477, 34 2B, 4 3B, 32 HR, 77 RBI, 30 SB in 620 AB

.271/.375/.481, 37 2B, 5 3B, 33 HR, 81 RBI, 27 SB in 607 AB

Kinsler’s AVG has been all over the place, but one thing is for certain: he continues to be a power hitting 2B with dynamic speed.  The lineup around him will keep the runs scored and RBI opportunities at high levels, and he is still in his prime, turning 30 in June.

4. Brandon Phillips, Reds

.300/.353/.457, 38 2B, 2 3B, 18 HR, 82 RBI, 18 SB in 610 AB

.305/.355/.464, 34 2B, 4 3B, 21 HR, 86 RBI, 16 SB in 623 AB

Some feel that Phillips is headed towards a major decline, but he turns just 31 and he has a lot to prove in 2012.  He is in the last year of his contract with the Reds and he’ll be looking for one more payday.  His ballpark and the lineup that he has around him will be a major help in reaching another great season.  He won’t touch 30/30 like he did in 2007, but his value is undeniable across the board still.

5. Ben Zobrist, Rays

.269/.353/.469, 46 2B, 6 3B, 20 HR, 91 RBI, 19 SB in 588 AB

.271/.357/.476, 43 2B, 5 3B, 24 HR, 92 RBI, 18 SB in 597 AB

Zobrist is a very unique player.  His average is all over the place, just like Kinsler, but he gets on base and provides a lot of power and enough speed to boost his value.  He’ll turn 31 in 2012, still in his prime, in a solid lineup and an ugly ballpark, which doesn’t matter.  Zobrist may have RF eligibility in some leagues, as well, so his versatility could add to his value.

6.  Dan Uggla, Braves

.233/.311/.453, 22 2B, 1 3B, 36 HR, 82 RBI, 1 SB in 600 AB

.255/.331/.489, 31 2B, 1 3B, 36 HR, 91 RBI, 1 SB in 591 AB

Uggla’s 1st half was gross to watch, especially if you owned him.  Uggla continues to be a monster with his power numbers, which you can deal with at the expense of his low batting averages.  Kinsler’s .255 average doesn’t compare due to his ability to fill all of the stats, as Uggla won’t steal many bases, if he steals any at all.

7. Howie Kendrick, Angels

.285/.338/.464, 30 2B, 6 3B, 18 HR, 63 RBI, 14 SB in 537 AB

.281/.336/.465, 35 2B, 7 3B, 21 HR, 68 RBI, 12 SB in 611 AB

Kendrick missed over 20 games last season and still posted solid numbers.  If he knew how to take a walk, the arrival of Pujols would have had a greater impact on his numbers, but he’ll continue to swing at nearly everything and put it in play.  Considering his swinging tendencies, his average is pretty impressive.  He’ll give value across the board, not to the levels of some of the above players, but he, too, could have OF eligibility due to his starts in LF last year.

8. Rickie Weeks

.269/.350/.468, 26 2B, 2 3B, 20 HR, 49 RBI, 9 SB in 453 AB

.271/.353/.476, 22 2B, 3 3B, 20 HR, 62 RBI, 6 SB in 471 AB

Weeks can’t stay healthy.  He posted his numbers last season in just 118 games.  He’ll try to do more with Prince Fielder gone and, possibly, Ryan Braun suspended, so it’ll be interesting to see how he holds up.  His ankle injury could lead to a sharp decrease in stolen bases, depending on how it actually healed this offseason.  If 2012 ends up like 2010, his lone season with at least 130 games played (160), he will be capable of posting numbers close to a top 3 2B.  Don’t count on it, though.

9. Chase Utley, Phillies

.259/.344/.425, 21 2B, 6 3B, 11 HR, 44 RBI, 14 SB in 398 AB

.271/.356/.441, 33 2B, 5 3B, 18 HR, 76 RBI, 20 SB in 521 AB

Utley’s days as an elite 2B are over, but he is still a great player.  He and the lineup around him are shaky due to a cohesive aging process.  Between Utley and Ryan Howard, the Phillies should begin to wonder what their right side of the infield is capable of, and if they have enough depth to survive another major injury over there.

10. Jason Kipnis, Indians

.272/.333/.507, 9 2B, 1 3B, 7 HR, 19 RBI, 5 SB in 136 AB

.274/.349/.494, 31 2B, 3 3B, 15 HR, 68 RBI, 11 SB in 597 AB

Based on Kipnis’ small sample size, you’d think he was going to be an elite 2B tomorrow.  Hell, if you take his 136 AB and turn it into a full season, he would have posted his .272/.333/.507 slash with 41 2B, 3 3B, 32 HR, 86 RBI, and 23 SB.  Kipnis is an offensive-minded 2B, but he isn’t going to touch those numbers.  With that being said, it wouldn’t surprise me if he hit up to 25 HR in a season in the future.  A great keeper league player.

11. Dustin Ackley, Mariners

.273/.348/.417, 16 2B, 7 3B, 6 HR, 36 RBI, 6 SB in 333 AB

.284/.356/.449, 41 2B, 11 3B, 11 HR, 67 RBI, 12 SB in 601 AB

Ackley won’t hit for power due to Safeco Field, but his gap power is impressive.  At some point, he’ll be ripping 50+ doubles annually.

12. Neil Walker, Pirates

.273/.334/.408, 36 2B, 4 3B, 12 HR, 83 RBI, 9 SB in 596 AB

.275/.341/.419, 38 2B, 5 3B, 14 HR, 81 RBI, 11 SB in 613 AB

13. Danny Espinosa, Nationals

.236/.323/.414, 29 2B, 5 3B, 21 HR, 66 RBI, 17 SB in 573 AB

.241/.331/.416, 31 2B, 6 3B, 22 HR, 69 RBI, 19 SB in 586 AB

14. Gordon Beckham, White Sox

.230/.296/.337, 23 2B, 10 HR, 44 RBI, 5 SB in 499 AB

.249/.311/.401, 32 2B, 1 3B, 17 HR, 64 RBI, 8 SB in 597 AB

15. Aaron Hill, Diamondbacks

.246/.299/.356, 27 2B, 3 3B, 8 HR, 61 RBI, 21 SB in 520 AB

.258/.309/.398, 31 2B, 3 3B, 11 HR, 67 RBI, 18 SB in 563 AB

16. Kelly Johnson, Blue Jays

.222/.304/.413, 27 2B, 7 3B, 21 HR, 58 RBI, 16 SB in 545 AB

.239/.314/.422, 29 2B, 5 3B, 24 HR, 63 RBI, 14 SB in 571 AB

17. Omar Infante, Marlins

.276/.315/.382, 24 2B, 8 3B, 7 HR, 49 RBI, 4 SB in 579 AB

.269/.311/.385, 28 2B, 9 3B, 9 HR, 51 RBI, 6 SB in 589 AB

18. Jemile Weeks, Athletics

.303/.340/.421, 26 2B, 8 3B, 2 HR, 36 RBI, 22 SB in 406 AB

.297/.342/.425, 37 3B, 12 3B, 3 HR, 51 RBI, 36 SB in 593 AB

19. Marco Scutaro, Rockies

.299/.358/.423, 26 2B, 1 3B, 7 HR, 54 RBI, 4 SB in 395 AB

.286/.351/.410, 31 2B, 2 3B, 9 HR, 67 RBI, 6 SB in 589 AB

20. Johnny Giavotella, Royals

.247/.273/.376, 9 2B, 4 3B, 2 HR, 21 RBI, 5 SB in 178 AB

.269/.310/.401, 22 2B, 7 3B, 12 HR, 56 RBI, 11 SB in 574 AB

The Rest:

Ramon Santiago, Tigers; Darwin Barney, Cubs; Brian Roberts, Orioles; Orlando Hudson, Padres; Jose Altuve, Astros; Mark Ellis, Dodgers; Freddy Sanchez, Giants; Daniel Descalso, Cardinals; Daniel Murphy, Mets;

Fantasy Baseball Rankings: First Basemen

Below you’ll find the rankings for 1B for the 2012 season.  You’ll see 2012 projections in italics. 

1. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers 

.344/.448/.586, 48 2B, 30 HR, 105 RBI, 2 SB in 572 AB

.327/.431/.596, 49 2B, 37 HR, 121 RBI, 1 SB in 579 AB

How can one of the best hitters in baseball get even better?  Adding Prince Fielder to the lineup.  The Tigers are going to need run production with Cabrera playing some 3B, as their defense may become as ugly as the Patriots secondary.

2. Albert Pujols, Angels

.299/.366/.541, 29 2B, 37 HR, 99 RBI, 9 SB in 579 AB

.313/.389/.563, 36 2B, 34 HR, 112 RBI, 5 SB in 599 AB

Pujols had a “down” year in 2011.  If only everyone could look so good when they’re so “bad.”  He’ll rebound with health, and he’ll maintain that health with the ability to DH on occasion.  His lineup is filled with vets, but it shouldn’t hold him back THIS YEAR.  I still don’t think he’s going to be worth the contract by 2015 or 2016…ARod style.

3. Prince Fielder, Tigers

.299/.415/.566, 36 2B, 38 HR, 120 RBI, 1 SB in 569 AB

.315/.426/.588, 43 2B, 35 HR, 119 RBI, 1 SB in 559 AB

Prince isn’t losing anything by moving away from Ryan Braun’s protection with Miguel Cabrera filling that role nicely.  He immediately makes Detroit a contender with his arrival, especially since they were already there before he got there.  Scary good with the Comerica Park gaps.

4. Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox

.338/.410/.548, 45 2B, 27 HR, 117 RBI, 1 SB in 630 AB

.327/.422/.553, 39 2B, 33 HR, 124 RBI, 1 SB in 614 AB

Gonzalez will have a full season of a not-God-awful Carl Crawford to drive in, and he’ll be comfortable in Fenway to start the year, so he won’t lose a month of power like he did at the start of 2011.

5. Joey Votto, Reds

.309/.416/.531, 40 2B, 29 HR, 103 RBI, 8 SB in 599 AB

.329/.426/.569, 36 2B, 38 HR, 106 RBI, 6 SB in 587 AB

Votto is a very patient hitter in a lineup that lacks patience.  He’ll take pitches and lose RBI’s due to guys not getting on around him, and walking about the same number of times that he strikes out.  He’s going to step up his production as he heads towards Free Agency after 2013, developing a market for himself early.  He’s in a great ballpark, Great American to be exact, to make it happen.

6. Eric Hosmer, Royals

.293/.334/.465, 27 2B, 19 HR, 78 RBI, 11 SB in 523 AB

.287/.362/.501, 31 2B, 26 HR, 89 RBI, 14 SB in 598 AB

Hosmer had a strong rookie season and is only going to get better.  2012 will be the first signs of what he is capable of, but his numbers will continue to climb from here.  He has power and is athletic enough to continue stealing bases.  He could eventually become a Ryan Braun clone at 1B, with fewer stolen bases.  I have him high on the list because he showed what he is capable of in the 2nd half of 2011.

7. Mark Teixeira, Yankees 

.248/.341/.494, 26 2B, 39 HR, 111 RBI, 4 SB in 589 AB

.253/.339/.513, 28 SB, 35 HR, 103 RBI, 2 SB in 594 AB

Teixeira’s AVG and SLG have fallen significantly in the last several seasons, and his high strikeout rate suddenly screams that he is on the decline, as he can’t keep up with fastballs like he used to.  With that being said, he is still mashing.  I have a slight bounceback coming, but he isn’t capable of the high averages and power like he used to be.

8. Michael Young, Rangers 

.338/.380/.474, 41 2B, 6 3B, 11 HR, 106 RBI, 6 SB in 631 AB

.318/.372/.468, 37 2B, 4 3B, 13 HR, 97 RBI, 5 SB in 639 AB

Young just keeps hitting.  He led the league in hits last year and continues showing the ability to be versatile, which has a lot of value in various fantasy formats.  Look for more of the same with a solid lineup around him, even as he continues aging.  He showed no signs of breaking down last year.

9. Freddie Freeman, Braves 

.282/.346/.448, 32 2B, 21 HR, 76 RBI, 4 SB in 571 AB

.294/.357/.467, 34 2B, 25 HR, 82 RBI, 3 SB in 584 AB

With a name this bad, you’d think there was no way that he would be a successful baseball player.  Maybe a plumber or sales guy…however, Freeman is very young and is a polished hitter.  He’s hitting better than previous super-prospect Jason Heyward  has to this point, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he continues to do so in coming years.  He may never hit 30-35 homers per season, but he will do more than enough to be an asset in fantasy and for the Braves.

10. Michael Morse, Nationals

.303/.360/.550, 36 2B, 31 HR, 95 RBI, 2 SB in 522 AB

.286/.342/.549, 34 2B, 33 HR, 107 RBI, 1 SB in 571 AB

Morse came out of nowhere, kind of, to post very valuable fantasy numbers in 2011.  He has tremendous power and a long swing, which still will make his susceptible to slumps and strikeouts.  The Nationals are improving around him, though, so he should continue to build value.  He will ultimately be a first baseman, but he will patrol left field to open the season.  He could move to first if or when Adam LaRoche’s next injury strikes, but he’ll certainly be there by 2013 for good. 

11. Billy Butler, Royals 

.291/.361/.461, 44 2B, 19 HR, 95 RBI, 2 SB in 597 AB

.314/.379/.501, 41 2B, 26 HR, 101 RBI, 1 SB in 599 AB

12. Ike Davis, Mets 

.302/.383/.543, 8 2B, 7 HR, 25 RBI, 0 SB in 129 AB

.291/.372/.538, 32 2B, 28 HR, 93 RBI, 1 SB in 586 AB

Davis was headed towards a breakout prior to the ankle injury that he suffered in 2011.  Imagine the capabilities in an offense that is relying heavily on him, especially after the fences were moved in.  This is the year.

13. Lance Berkman, Cardinals 

.301/.412/.547, 23 2B, 31 HR, 94 RBI, 2 SB in 488 AB

.283/.394/.527, 21 2B, 33 HR, 111 RBI, 1 SB in 506 AB

He won’t hit as well with added pressure to perform, but he should maintain health by moving to first.  He’s aging, even if he posted a solid season for what seems like the first time in years in 2011, so don’t think he is going to get a whole lot better than last year.

14. Ryan Howard, Phillies 

.253/.346/.488, 30 2B, 33 HR, 116 RBI, 1 SB in 557 AB

.247/.339/.479, 23 2B, 26 HR, 82 RBI, 0 SB in 486 AB

Decline City.  Major injury + drops in OPS over the last few years = the NL version of Teixeira with a whole lot less to offer.  Howard will miss the first month, but he’ll still post solid power numbers.  He isn’t a top of the line bat anymore, and he and his teammates are aging quicker than Benjamin Button, only the opposite way.

15. Paul Konerko, White Sox 

.300/.388/.517, 25 2B, 31 HR, 105 RBI, 1 SB in 543 AB

.309/.392/.524, 28 2B, 33 HR, 110 RBI, 1 SB in 564 AB

There’s no way that Konerko can’t be better in 2011 because Alex Rios, Adam Dunn, and Gordon Beckham will be better around him.  He’ll drive in more runs and see more pitches.

16. Mark Reynolds, Orioles

.221/.323/.483, 27 2B, 37 HR, 86 RBI, 6 SB in 534 AB

.232/.331/.489, 26 2B, 39 HR, 91 RBI, 4 SB in 541 AB

17. Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks 

.250/.333/.474, 9 2B, 8 HR, 26 RBI, 4 SB in 156 AB

.259/.341/.510, 28 2B, 25 HR, 84 RBI, 7 SB in 533 AB

18. Yonder Alonso, Padres

.330/.398/.545, 4 2B, 5 HR, 15 RBI, 0 SB in 88 AB

.309/.389/.508, 36 2B, 17 HR, 84 RBI, 1 SB in 531 AB

19. Gaby Sanchez, Marlins

.266/.352/.427, 35 2B, 19 HR, 78 RBI, 3 SB in 572 AB

.271/.354/.449, 37 2B, 18 HR, 83 RBI, 2 SB in 576 AB

20. Michael Cuddyer, Rockies 

.284/.346/.459, 29 2B, 20 HR, 70 RBI, 11 SB in 529 AB

.279/.339/.453, 31 2B, 17 HR, 76 RBI, 8 SB in 559 AB

21. Carlos Lee, Astros

.275/.342/.446, 38 2B, 18 HR, 94 RBI, 4 SB in 585 AB

.271/.341/.439, 36 2B, 21 HR, 89 RBI, 2 SB in 591 AB

22. Justin Morneau, Twins

.227/.285/.333, 16 2B, 4 HR, 30 RBI, 0 SB in 264 AB

.264/.326/.411, 21 2B, 15 HR, 65 RBI, 0 SB in 403 AB

If he stays on the field, he’s still going to have to adjust and be consistent.  Chris Parmelee may be the best Twins first baseman to own going forward.

23. Justin Smoak, Mariners

.234/.323/.396, 24 2B, 15 HR, 55 RBI, 0 SB in 427 AB

.271/.359/.489, 31 2B, 22 HR, 83 RBI, 1 SB in 568 AB

This is the year, guys!  Smoak stays healthy, has help with Montero coming over, and he develops.  He’s still just 25!

24. Aubrey Huff, Giants

.246/.306/.370, 27 2B, 12 HR, 59 RBI, 5 SB in 521 AB

.261/.326/.409, 31 2B, 17 HR, 63 RBI, 4 SB in 535 AB

25. Carlos Pena, Rays

.225/.357/.462, 27 2B, 28 HR, 80 RBI, 2 SB in 493 AB

.231/.379/.491, 26 2B, 29 HR, 84 RBI, 2 SB in 519 AB

26. James Loney, Dodgers

.288/.339/.416, 30 2B, 12 HR, 65 RBI, 4 SB in 531 AB

.281/.341/.421, 34 2B, 14 HR, 70 RBI, 3 SB 546 AB

27. Casey Kotchman, Indians

.306/.378/.422, 24 2B, 10 HR, 48 RBI, 2 SB in 500 AB

.311/.386/.441, 31 2B, 13 HR, 63 RBI, 1 SB in 562 AB

28. Adam Lind, Blue Jays

.251/.295/.439, 16 2B, 26 HR, 87 RBI, 1 SB in 499 AB

.255/.310/.441, 18 2B, 29 HR, 84 RBI, 1 SB in 512 AB

29. Mitch Moreland, Rangers

.259/.320/.414, 22 2B, 16 HR, 51 RBI, 2 SB in 464 AB

.265/.329/426, 29 2B, 19 HR, 62 RBI, 3 SB in 520 AB

30. Todd Helton, Rockies

.302/.385/.466, 27 2B, 14 HR, 69 RBI, 0 SB in 421 AB

.294/.376/.459, 24 2B, 13 HR, 67 RBI, 0 SB in 432 AB

2nd Half Surgers and 2012 Sleepers

Not everyone that rakes in the second half of a season begins the next season on a tear.  I mean, there are only, what, four months between their last meaningful swing and Spring Training, right?  However, some guys show things that we may not notice in their final stats.  Anyone else out there who wanted to throat punch Dan Uggla at the All-Star break last year with his .185 AVG and .622 OPS?  Well, if you held out for his .297 AVG, .948 OPS and 21 Post-break homers, you are clearly a great fisherman.  Here are a few guys who may be “breakout candidates” due to a huge second half in 2011.

Nick Hundley, C, Padres: .367/.404/.656, 11 2B, 4 3B, 6 HR in 128 AB

Sure, he is going to be pushed by Yasmani Grandal at some point in 2012, and he plays in the worst stadium for offense in the world, but Hundley isn’t bad.  Maybe the upcoming competition will enhance the skills he showed in the second half, or the stress may be a bit too much, who knows?  One thing to remember, though: he’s 28, in his prime, and posted these sick numbers last year.

Dexter Fowler, CF, Rockies: .288/.381/.498, 22 2B, 10 3B, 5 HR, 27 RBI, 10 SB in 271 AB

Fowler will be just 26 in 2012 and showed exactly why the Rockies have been patient with him when he broke out in the second half.  The man spent 24 games in Triple-A last year after a brief demotion and it seemed to really light a fire under his…toosh.  The Rockies aren’t pushing Tim Wheeler too quickly this year, knowing that Fowler is capable of this type of production.  He just needs to not show the J.D. Drew-like effortless play that some “toolsy” guys do, as they try to get by on what they want to, instead of what they can…I’m looking at you B.J. Upton.

Dee Gordon, SS, Dodger: .345/.367/.408, 7 2B, 1 3B, 15 SB in 142 AB

Gordon has about as much power as my three-year-old daughter, but he is fast.  Guys looking for speed in fantasy leagues will want to monitor where he is going in drafts and look to grab him.  There aren’t a ton of SS with value and Gordon could approach 50-60 steals this year playing every day.  If he hits 1 homerun, consider it luck, especially if it isn’t an inside-the-parker.

Salvador Perez, C, Royals: .331/.361/.473, 8 2B, 2 3B, 3 HR, 21 RBI in 148 AB

Perez was just 21 when he made the jump to the Majors last year.  He’s another in a line of young catcher reaching the Bigs, as the youth of Santana, Ramos, Posey, and Mesoraco create an exciting time to be a fan of backstops.  Perez is a big guy at 6’3″, 230, but he is solid behind the plate, 42% of would-be basestealers in the Minors (though just 21% in his stint with K.C.).  He could be an interesting talent for the Royals and could have great value in that improving lineup.  Wil Myers was moved to the outfield prior to last season, so Perez doesn’t seem to have anything to worry about when it comes to locking down the position long-term.

Lucas Duda, RF, Mets: .322/.411/.546, 14 2B, 1 3B, 10 HR, 38 RBI in 205 AB

Someone has to drive in runs for the Mets, right?  The fences are being moved in and Ike Davis and David Wright should be healthy, so Duda could be that dude (see what I did there?)  He’ll be just 26 for the whole 2012 season and he showed some impressive power.  The question will be if being 6’4″, 255 is going to work in the outfield.  His range factor was well below league average in his 42 games there in 2011, but the man can rake.

Corey Hart, RF, Brewers: .297/.361/.549, 13 2B, 1 3B, 16 HR, 37 RBI in 266 AB

Hart is going to have to help carry the Brewers for 50 games if or when Ryan Braun is suspended for using performance-enhancing drugs.  He looked like he was capable in the second half of 2011 of becoming that type of player.  He turns 30 in 2012, so he still has a couple of years of value, but we saw how quickly giant men can become useless last year when Adam Dunn become a useless turd in Chicago.  Here’s to hoping that Hart’s swing doesn’t become as long as Dunn’s in a time when Milwaukee will have their hearts attached to him (I’m on a roll).

Alejandro De Aza, OF, White Sox: .329/.400/.520, 11 2B, 3 3B, 4 HR, 23 RBI, 12 SB in 152 AB

De Aza could be the next Andres Torres, a guy that comes out of nowhere to show skills that no one thought they had, only to crash and burn due to the fact that reality is really a harsh tool that makes people second guess the likelihood of chance repeating…so is De Aza worth drafting or counting on?  At 28 and having a .242 career average in 194 career AB prior to his brief stint of mattering in 2011, the chances of this being reality are slim.

Ricky Romero, LHP, Blue Jays: 8-3, 2.72 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 77/35 K/BB in 102 2/3 IP

Romero doesn’t get enough credit for what he’s done in the American League East on a team that, while improving, isn’t a top tier team.  He has quietly gone 42-29 with a 3.60 ERA in 93 starts, while striking out a little over 7 per 9 IP.  He seems like an afterthought, but he is a legitimate anchor to a staff that will feature stars like Drew Hutchison and Kyle Drabek (if he reaches his potential) in the next couple of years.  He wears his hat pretty sweet, too.

Alfredo Aceves, RHP, Red Sox: 8-2 in 31 games (0 starts), 1.79 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 47/18 K/BB in 56 IP

Why is he on this list?  Because his numbers are about as sick looking as Vicente Padilla’s face, and that is the man that he will be battling for a potential rotation spot in Spring Training.  Aceves is a wins vulture out of the bullpen regardless, so based on his ERA and WHIP, could be a valuable fantasy commodity if he is in a middle relief or set-up role in 2012.  He’s someone to monitor in the upcoming weeks.

Javier Vazquez, RHP, Couch: 8-3, 2.15 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 96/16 K/BB in 96 1/3 IP

After pitching batting practice in the first half last year (5.23 ERA, .288 BAA), Vazquez returned to his I’m-not-a-Yankee-so-I’ll-pitch-well-form that he has shown his entire career.  Then…he retired…or did he?  He’ll turn 36 in July and clearly has something left after his incredible second half in 2011.  It is just so cliche to go out on top, especially when your top was for a team that finished 30 games back in the NL East.  If Vazquez comes back and doesn’t pitch for the Yankees, he is worth grabbing.  If he comes back and pitches for the Yankees, you’ll wish he stayed home on his couch.