Best of the Best – A Championship Builder 2016

It’s time to start preparing for Fantasy Baseball. My hope is that you’ve all been doing some sort of research to prepare for your own drafts. Today we’ll look at the top players at each position.

All stats are projected based on players making it through the season without significant injuries.

Catcher

Buster Posey (1B) (ADP 24)

Posey is in a class of his own. In the last 4 years, Posey has played in 148 games per season. His averages are .315, 20 HR, 71 runs, 90 RBI and 1 steal.

Buster Posey

Last year, he was the number 1 catcher and was ranked 42nd overall. The second best catcher was ranked 150 overall.

Projections: .320, 21 HR, 76 runs, 93 RBI, 1 SB.

Kyle Schwarber (OF) (ADP 43)

Schwarber only played in 69 games last year. Even with that, he was able to break the top 10 in most categories. He was 7th in runs, 6th in HR and tied for 4th in SB among catchers.

I don’t see Schwarber being a base stealer by any means, but as a catcher, you don’t need much.

Schwarber is listed as a catcher because that’s where his value is. I expect Schwarber to platoon a bit (.143 vs lefties), but he’ll still get a lot of playing time.

Projections: .255, 25 HR, 72 runs, 85 RBI, 4 SB.

Russell Martin (ADP 124)

Martin took advantage of playing in a hitter’s park. In 2015, Martin was finished in the top 3 at his position in every statistic except for average.

He led all catchers in runs scored, and should do well in 2016 with Bautista, Donaldson and Encarnacion on the team again this year.

I don’t expect Martin to be quite as valuable as he was last year, but he should come close. He will offer something in the neighborhood of 75 runs and 75 RBI with 20+ HR.

Projections: .255, 21 HR, 79 runs, 78 RBI, 4 SB.

Jonathan Lucroy (1B) (97)

Lucroy is a year removed from a top 5 finish in MVP voting. Last year he only played in 103 games. Even with 103 games, Lucroy finished in the top 15 in every significant stat.

He was 9th in runs and 6th in steals. Lucroy’s second half stats still offer hope. Lucroy won’t be “the popular pick” but could be the pick that wins your league.

Projections: .315, 9 HR, 71 runs, 65 RBI, 3 SB.

Brian McCann (ADP 109)

McCann has played in at least 120 games in 9 of the last 10 years. He has 20 HR every season since 2008.

He isn’t going to do you any favors in batting average, but McCann was first in HR, second in RBI, and third in runs for catchers last year. He’s going in the 14th round.

Projections: .230, 25 HR, 71 runs, 91 RBI, 0 SB.

First base

Paul Goldschmidt (ADP 2)

Goldschmidt was one of two players with 100 runs, 100 RBI and 30 HR. The other was Chris Davis.

Coincidentally, they are the only first basemen to reach those stats since 2011, and have each done so twice (both in 2013 and 2015). Goldschmidt was on pace to reach those numbers in 2014 as well, but got injured.

In 2015, Goldschmidt was a top-5 player in every statistical category for first base. He finished 1st in runs and steals while finishing 3rd in RBI and 5th in HR.

He projects to continue being one of the best in the game, so I wouldn’t have any fear taking him.

Projections: .305, 35 HR, 90 runs, 115 RBI, 17 SB.

Anthony Rizzo (ADP 12)

Rizzo may not increase his power numbers, but should be able to improve the rest of his stats. Over the last 3 seasons, Rizzo has averaged 29 HR, 85 runs, and 86 RBI, and 17 SB.

Anthony Rizzo

No player other than Goldschmidt has matched those numbers over the last 5 years. Last season, he topped out, breaking 95 runs and 100 RBI’s.

He finished in the top 10 in ever significant category among 1B. Rizzo is similar to Goldschmidt, though his numbers aren’t quite as high yet.

Projections: .281, 34 HR, 102 runs, 107 RBI, 12 SB.

Jose Abreu (ADP 21)

Last year was a bit of a down year as experts claim that Abreu “struggled” last year. I wouldn’t call a .290 average with 30 HR struggling, but it isn’t quite what he did as a rookie.

Abreu finished in the top 10 at his position in runs, RBI and HR. In 2016, his RBI production should actually increase given that Frazier joined the team.

I see Abreu as elite in 3 categories (HR, Runs and RBI) while being above average in his batting average.

Projections: .299, 34 HR, 91 runs, 110 RBI, 0 SB.

Edwin Encarnacion (ADP 22)

Chicks dig the long ball! Encarnacion has at least 34 HR each of the last 4 seasons. He’s an elite contributor in RBI and HR. The only player with more HR than Encarnacion in the last 4 years is Chris Davis. He’s an elite power guy, and the only person he hasn’t beaten in the last 4 years is the best power hitter in the game.

Encarnacion was 3rd in HR, 2nd in RBI, and 6th in Runs. Getting those numbers in the 2nd or 3rd round are pretty solid if you’re willing to wait. He makes a great option for the second pick when you’re first overall.

Projections: .274, 37 HR, 97 runs, 115 RBI, 3 SB.

Joey Votto (ADP 30)

I think Votto may surprise people this season. If you’re in an OBP league, he’s even more valuable than we have him listed (since 2009, his OBP is .433). Votto has batted below .297 just once in his career.

Votto has led the league in walks in 4 of the last 5 years and has translated that into run production consistently.

Let’s be honest, we know the Reds won’t be very good this year. That means that Votto is going to get pitched around, but I think he still has the opportunity to get a lot of RBI and Runs out of it.

In 2015, Votto also produced his highest SB total (11) since 2009 when he had 16 steals.

That being said, I think Votto actually repeats that performance and offers a solid number of SB for his position.

Projections: .320, 26 HR, 91 runs, 88 RBI, 14 SB.

Miguel Cabrera (ADP 13)

You can’t write a fantasy article without talking about Cabrera. There was a 5 year period where he averaged 38 HR, 106 runs and 122 RBI while sporting a .335 average and .419 OBP.

Sadly, those days are gone. Cabrera isn’t, suddenly, a bad player, but he’s not that same Triple Crown threat that he used to be.

Unless the Tigers play him at DH, Cabrera could struggle with injuries again this year. Cabrera is losing some of his power and may start hitting doubles more often than HR.

He’s still a great player, but lacks value because of where he’s drafted. If you trust him to stay healthy, he could be a great pick.

Projections: .335, 24 HR, 98 runs, 105 RBI, 0 SB.

Second Base

Second base is where I go completely against the norm. My top second basemen are not the same as any other list I’ve seen. You’ve been warned.

Brian Dozier (ADP 65)

I know, Altuve. Feel free to argue, but Dozier is my favorite second basemen on this list. I think he’s great value if you draft him at number 65. Last year, he led 2B in HR and Runs.

He added 77 RBI while batting leadoff in 102 games. If Byron Buxton comes on strong, you may see Dozier slide back to number 2 or 3 in the lineup.  That would only increase his RBI total.

Brian Dozier

With Sano and Park in the lineup, Dozier may actually lead the league in runs this year. If he moves back to 2 or 3 in the lineup, he could also increase his RBI.

It’s hard to argue against a guy who could lead his position in 3 categories and doesn’t get drafted until the 5th round.

Projections: .245, 26 HR, 115 runs, 86 RBI, 13 SB.

Jose Altuve (ADP 11)

Altuve is easily the best overall second baseman in the majors. You can count on a good, if not great, average from Altuve. He’s stolen 94 bases in the last two seasons.

Unfortunately, he is a better real player than fantasy guy. He only offers elite production in two stats. He’ll offer above average production in runs.

A full season with Correa could mean elite run production. I expected the Astros’ lead-off hitter to score a ton of runs, but Altuve isn’t quite there.

Altuve won’t offer many RBI and I don’t expect him to repeat his 15 HR from 2015. I can’t justify taking a guy at 11 if he’s only elite in two categories.

Projections: .307, 8 HR, 90 Runs, 53 RBI, 34 SB.

Dee Gordon (ADP 20)

Gordon had a great season in 2015. He set career highs in hits, (tied) 2B, HR, RBI, average, and OBP. Can we really expect that to happen again?

Well, Gordon’s 2015 BAbip was .383 which is almost 40 points higher than his previous career high.

That means of the balls that he put in play, roughly 4% more fell compared to his career average. That doesn’t seem like much, but that translates.333 average instead of him batting .294.

I don’t expect Gordon to hit 4 HR in 2016. He had 4 HR from 2011-2014. He’ll still offer elite numbers in average and steals. Typically, Don Mattingly doesn’t have a running team.

Much like my argument with Altuve, I question if Gordon is worth such a high pick when he is only offering elite performance in 2 categories?

Projections: .303, 2 HR, 90 runs, 40 RBI, 51 SB.

Robinson Cano (ADP 49)

Cano isn’t the guy that he was in New York, but he’s still a great 2B. Power numbers are down, but he still offers elite average with above average runs and RBI.

You’d like to see Cano do more, but 3 plus categories isn’t terrible for someone who goes 49th in the draft.

Heading into 2015, it was 2008 since Cano batted below .300. But, he had a down year. So, you’ll have to decide if he’s worth the risk while hoping that he bounces back.

You can be sure that he’s going to play. Since 2007, Cano has played 156+ games every year. So, he’s as much of a rock solid guarantee as you’ll find for playing time and health.

In a “down” year, Cano still finished in the top 10 for 2B in runs, RBI, and HR. He was top 2 in HR and RBI. So, he’s still one of your best options.

Projections: .290, 22 HR, 83 runs, 81 RBI, 4 SB.

Rougned Odor (ADP 95)

The next controversial pick: Rougned Odor. Many fans don’t know who Odor is, let alone have the ability to pronounce his name (Roog-ned by the way).

The kid has seen major league action in parts of 2 seasons. He’s never topped 120 games, and has never hit above .261.

So, why am I telling you this; because he’s my number one breakout candidate.

During the summer, Odor batted .330. He batted .273 in the second half while hitting 12 HR. In just 120 games last season, Odor was a top 5 power contributor among 2B.

He finished 19th in runs, 11th in RBI and 14th in SB. His numbers from last season project to be something along the lines of .270, 20 HR, 68 runs, 72 RBI, and 8 SB last season. Those numbers are worthy of this list.

Projections: .270, 20 HR, 74 runs, 70 RBI, 11 SB.

Third Base

Josh Donaldson (ADP 5)

Donaldson took the league by storm last year. 2015 was only the fourth time in league history that a 3B had 115 runs, 120 RBI and 40 HR.

Alex Rodriguez has accomplished the feat twice (2005 and 2007). Before that, it was 1953 (Al Rosen).

Donaldson is consistently elite in 3 categories (runs, RBI, HR) and I expect him to keep his average up.

He doesn’t offer much in the SB category, but you can live with that when he leads the league in runs and RBI.

Projections: .305, 47 HR, 115 runs, 125 RBI, 4 SB.

Nolan Arenado (ADP 9)

Arenado was the king of the Sunday game. In his third year, Arenado became the best 3B that the NL has to offer. He went yard 42 times and had 130 RBI. That’s tough to beat. He wasn’t quite Josh Donaldson, but he wasn’t far from it.

Arenado hit 12 HR in June and September. He was close to breaking a few records, but fell just short of Maris and Ruth’s 15. When you’re a 24 year old who is being compared to guys like Maris and Ruth, you’re doing something right.

Projections: .291, 38 HR, 86 runs, 99 RBI, 2 SB.

Manny Machado (SS) (ADP 10)

Machado is the pride of Baltimore right now; as the best player the Orioles have drafted since Cal Ripken. The last time that a 3B had 100+ runs, 80+ RBI, 30 HR and 30 2B with 20 SB was 2007 (Alex Rodriguez an David Wright).

Manny Machado

Machado has increased his OBP every year since breaking into the league as a 19 year old. Last year, he had 70 walks.

His previous career high was 29. As the 2 hitter, he’ll benefit from the additions of Trumbo and Alvarez who could combine for 60+ HR. The O’s have 6 starters who have hit 30+ HR in one season.

There will be fireworks at Camden Yards this year and if Machado is at the top of the lineup, he may benefit the most.

Projections: .284, 29 HR, 117 runs, 86 RBI, 14 SB.

Kris Bryant (OF) (ADP 13)

Bryant is a special player:  he got better as the season went on. Bryant had more doubles, HR, and a better batting average in the second half. This shows he can adjust to major league pitching.

Last year, Bryant was the number 3 hitter in 68 games. I think that’s going to be his home for most of 2016. Bryant will benefit from Zobrist, Heyward, and Fowler being capable of hitting first. This means he may have two table setters bating before him. Increase power and a better 1-2 punch before him should mean an increase in RBI.

Predictions: .277, 34 HR, 92 runs, 106 RBI, 11 SB.

Matt Carpenter (2B) (ADP 58)

Carpenter has more value as a 2B than a 3B, but 3B is his primary position. Carpenter led the league in doubles last year which contributed to getting so many runs and RBI. I think he’ll be able to turn some of those doubles into HR while still showing fantastic OBP. Take advantage of his positional flexibility.

Projections: .274, 31 HR, 108 runs, 89 RBI, 4 SB.

Honorable mention: I wanted to include Frazier on this list, but I’m concerned he may struggle as he moves from the NL to the AL.

Shortstop

Carlos Correa (ADP 7)

Correa was the AL Rookie of the Year in 2015. In a young group of great talent at SS, Correa is the star. In 99 games he had 22 HR, 14 SB, 52 runs and 68 RBI.

Those numbers, in a full season, would have been 36 HR, 23 SB, 85 runs, and 111 RBI. I think he’ll reach a lot of those numbers this year.

Projections: .285, 35 HR, 30 SB, 85 runs, 90 RBI.

Francisco Lindor (ADP 75)

Lindor is another young player who got his shot and made the most of it. If not for Correa, he might have won the Rookie of the Year award.

Francisco Lindor

In 99 games, he had 12 HR, 12 SB, a .313 average, and added 50+ RBI and runs. It’s tough to imagine anyone that’s more well-rounded.

Lindor projects for 20 HR and steals this year. Batting second, Lindor will have more runs than RBI.

Projections: .310, 21 HR, 104 runs, 97 RBI, 25 SB.

Troy Tulowitzki (ADP 49)

Tulo didn’t perform as well as expected in Toronto last year. His splits away from Colorado have never been amazing, but he’s surrounded by great hitters, and should be able to make the best out of it.

Expect high production, but you shouldn’t expect what you saw in Colorado.

Projections: .270, 22 HR, 97 runs, 75 RBI, 1 SB.

Xander Bogaerts (ADP 64)

Bogaerts isn’t the greatest in the world, but he should out-perform his ADP. Bogaerts is someone you can depend on for a good average, and 80+ runs and RBI. I expect Bogaerts to increase HR and SB numbers.

Projections: .315, 10 HR, 89 runs, 88 RBI, 14 SB.

Corey Seager (ADP 65)

I’m more comfortable counting on Lindor to repeat his performance from last year than I am assuming Seager adjusts and has a great season as a rookie.

He’s had great stats in the minors, but may need time to adjust to big league pitching. He did hit .337 in 27 games last year.

Projections: .280, 17 HR, 74 runs, 78 RBI, 11 SB.

Outfield

Mike Trout (ADP 1)

He’s the consensus top pick in the league. He’s led the league in runs 3 of the last 4 years. His power is increasing while his steals are decreasing. You’d love to see him break 30 steals again, but I wouldn’t expect that. Coming into his age 24 season, Trout could break 50 HR.

Projections: .308, 46 HR, 102 runs, 105 RBI, 15 SB.

Bryce Harper (ADP 3)

This is a special kid who had a great year last season. He should repeat in 2016. Power should stick, though his average may drop a bit.

His BAbip was high, even for him. Harper is elite in power, runs, RBI, and average.

Projections: .310, 39 HR, 101 runs, 104 RBI, 5 SB.

AJ Pollock (ADP 17)

Pollock has all the makings of being a superstar. I think he makes the leap into being similar to Andrew McCutchen this year; a five stat guy who offers elite production in two categories (average/runs), but is above average in every category. I predict an increase in HR, SB, and RBI.

Projections: 315, 25 HR, 105 runs, 90 RBI, 50 SB.

Giancarlo Stanton (ADP 7)

Stanton is a power freak when healthy. His career average is one HR every 4 games. Last year, his average was one every 3 games.

If he can play a full season (he’s only done that twice in 6 years), he should offer elite power and RBI production with borderline elite run production.

Stanton has played less than 125 games (4 times) more often than not.

Projections: .273, 51 HR, 97  runs, 115 RBI, 7 SB.

Andrew McCutchen (ADP 9)

This is your rock-solid guy who does everything well. He’s above average or elite in every stat with a 5 year average of .302, 25 HR, 94 runs, 90 RBI, and 20 SB.

Power numbers will drop this year, but he’ll still be an elite producer for your team. Somehow, quietly being above average at everything has hurt his ADP.

Projections: .298, 22 HR, 94 runs, 99 RBI, 14 SB.

Mookie Betts (ADP 21)

Betts is a special kid with surprising pop for his size. Last year he was more valuable given his 2B eligibility. That shouldn’t damper your spirits.

He’s hit exactly .291 in both of his major league seasons. He was elite in runs last year while offering above-average production in steals and average.

Projections: .293, 21 HR, 97 runs, 83 RBI, 24 SB.

Jose Bautista (ADP 18)

Bautista used to be the cream of the crop. What happened? In short, he was injured in two consecutive seasons which scared people away.

Jose Bautista

His power numbers have come back and he’s elite in 3 categories. He won’t steal many bases but his numbers are acceptable.

Projections: .275, 43 HR, 105 Runs, 111 RBI, 7 SB.

Starling Marte (ADP 31)

Marte has never been an all-star but he provides great value in fantasy baseball. He’s elite in SB, above average in average and runs.

Last year he was above average in RBI, but that was his first year as an RBI guy.

Projections: .292, 21 HR, 81 runs, 75 RBI, 35 SB.

JD Martinez (ADP 33)

Martinez has only played one full season in the majors, but has played over 100 games 3 times. He’s shown consistent power with a solid average.

He’s elite in power, RBI, and above average in runs scored. He’ll offer production in most stats, though steals aren’t something he can help with.

Projections: .297, 41 HR, 94 runs, 104 RBI, 3 SB.

Starting Pitcher

I realize that these rankings aren’t quite your ordinary. But this is about who will end 2016 the best, not who should get drafted first based on their past.

As I projected stats, I had to change the order these players were ranked.

Clayton Kershaw (ADP 3)

Kershaw is a pitching god these days. His 5 year average: 17-6, 2.11 ERA, 268 K’s, .930 WHIP. His peripherals would be great for a closer!

Needless to say, I expect him to be an elite pitcher again this year.

Projections: 17-7, 3.21 ERA, 265 K, 1.11 WHIP.

Jake Arrieta (ADP 18)

Arrieta proved two things in 2015: he has the potential to be a true ace, and the Orioles like to trade away future stars.

Arrieta posted career bests in W, ERA, starts, CG, Shutouts, IP, BB/9, K/BB and WHIP. That’s justification for him being one of the highest rated pitchers.

Jake Arrieta

The only question is, can he repeat that type of performance? You never want to draft a one-hit wonder at the top of the draft.

Projections: 19-8, 2.24 ERA, 227 K, .924 WHIP.

Matt Harvey (ADP 34)

Harvey is going to be similar to Wainwright after Tommy John surgery. It took a full year to get back, and then he became one of the best pitchers in baseball.

He looked great in 2015 when he was able to pitch, but I think he’ll be even better this year.

Harvey should make 32-34 starts which would give  him a chance to outpace others in wins. Harvey will compete for a Cy Young this year.

Projections: 19-8, 2.65, 205 K, 1.04 WHIP.

Jacob deGrom (ADP 32)

deGrom is another special kid. He improved on great rookie numbers and should break the 200 IP mark this year.

I expect a similar ERA with improvement in BB, HR, and K. He has an outside shot at a Cy Young bid this year.

Projections: 17-8, 2.57 ERA, 235 K, .974 WHIP.

Adam Wainwright (ADP 73)

Wainwright seems to be near the top of the class of the NL when he’s not injured. I expect him to continue that trend in 2016.

He’ll break 19 wins for the 5th time in his career. He should provide a ton of innings, great K rates, and a top 3 ERA.

Projections: 20-8, 2.60 ERA, 195 K, 1.05 WHIP.

David Price (ADP 29)

Price is my favorite for the AL Cy Young. He has an incredible history against the AL East. There’s going to be a lot of runs scored in Boston, and I think the Green Monster will actually help Price more than it hurts him.

He may not be in a pitcher’s park, but that won’t hurt Price as he sets a career high in K/9 this year.

Projections: 19-7, 2.90 ERA, 215 K, 1.06 WHIP.

Stephen Strasburg (ADP 46)

It’s a contract year for the Phenom who took DC by storm. That means he’s going to put up career numbers across the board.

Strasburg should be fully healthy this year, meaning he can tally up the strikeouts. I think he comes around 3.00 for ERA and should improve his WHIP this year.

The guy wants more than the $10.4 million that he’s getting this year, and his performance is going to force people to pay it.

Projections: 19-9, 3.01 ERA, 235 K, 1.00 WHIP.

Max Scherzer (ADP 13)

I expected Scherzer to fight for the Cy Young in 2015. It didn’t quite happen though he did pitch well. Scherzer led the league in starts, CG, and shutouts last season.

His potential for a Cy Young is there, especially with the offense he has in Washington. Expect him to bounce back and be the driving force for the Nats.

Projections: 16-9, 2.85 ERA, 271 K, .912 WHIP.

Madison Bumgarner (ADP 24)

Bumgarner has become the definition of consistent. He’s pitched in 200+ innings 5 years in a row. 2012 was his last season with an ERA above 3 or a WHIP above 1.1.

He’s not going to lead the league in strikeouts, but he’ll break 200 again this year. He’s been above 190 ever season since becoming a full time starter.

Projections: 18-11, 2.95 ERA, 224 K, 1.00 WHIP.

Chris Archer (ADP 49)

Archer is a young stud that I think fights for the Cy Young. He can’t compete with the NL aces, but he’ll do well for an AL pitcher.

Expect career bests in W, ERA, IP, and K. He may be the most improved pitcher in the league this year.

Projections: 17-7, 3.21 ERA, 265 K, 1.11 WHIP.

Relief Pitcher

This is a tough group- closers are linked to their team’s winning percentage. You also have to account for health, suspension, and the continued revolving door that seems to be the closer’s role on half of teams.

Craig Kimbrel

Kimbrel spent a lot of time as the best closer in baseball. Being on the Padres hurt his value, but Boston should help that bounce back.

Craig Kimbrel

In a 4 year stretch with Atlanta, Kimbrel averaged a 1.51 ERA with 46 saves per season. You should expect the ERA to be higher, but the save numbers to be similar.

Projections: 3 W, 42 saves, 2.25 ERA, 87 K, 1.03 WHIP.

Jeurys Familia

Last year was Familia’s first as a closer, and he earned the chance to keep it long-term. Familia got better as the season went on thanks to learning to throw a splitter.

He was also a key cog in the machine that got the Mets to the World Series.

Projections: 2 Wins, 44 saves, 2.15 ERA, 88 K, 1.07 WHIP.

Kenley Jansen

Jansen was fortunate to watch Aroldis Chapman go to the Yankees. He has great peripherals and should have a high-powered offense that leads a lot of games.

Some have compared him to a modern day Mariano Rivera given his consistency and use of the cutter.

Projections: 3 W, 42 saves, 2.24 ERA, 88 K, .94 WHIP.

Mark Melancon

In the last two seasons, Melancon has 84 saves with a 2.07 ERA. The Pirates won’t win quite as many games which may lower his save total.

But, the Pirates are also going to win close games, meaning he’ll have plenty of opportunity. The way Melancon pitches gets saves but doesn’t involve many strikeouts.

Projections: 3 W, 41 saves, 2.04 ERA, 63 K, 1.06 WHIP.

Wade Davis

Last year, it was Greg Holland who closed games out for the Royals. Despite how great the team was, he only finished with 32 saves.

The offense had a lot of blowouts. Davis was incredible in his own right, and deserves a shot at ending the game.

Projections: 4 W, 37 saves, 2.21 ERA, 82 K, 1.04 WHIP.

That wraps our predictions up. I’m sure some of you are going to disagree with the opinions stated as the ADP numbers show.

Feel free to offer feedback. I’d also love to see discussion on one topic- why are steals overrated? It seems that any player who can steal a base is automatically given higher preference.

Billy Hamilton can’t but for a base hit to keep his average up, but he steals a ton of bases so he’s on fantasy rosters everywhere.

What are your thoughts?