Ranks 11-20 for 2012: Still thinking hitters


The general reaction to last week's blog entry detailing my first set of top 10 rankings for the 2012 fantasy baseball season wasn't at all shocking. Sure, in many leagues first basemen Joey Votto, Adrian Gonzalez and Prince Fielder, in some order, will end up being first-round picks. And truth be told, there's nothing wrong with selecting them early. You'll see their names below in my second round.

In fantasy sports, a successful draft often comes down to value, not final results. The difference in the No. 5 first baseman and the No. 15 option isn't a small one, but when compared to the same range at each of the other infield positions, there's no contest. Gaby Sanchez is sitting there in Round 15. The middle infield pool an hour into your draft won't be as much fun to sift through, unless you're a really big fan of Jason Bartlett. Well, I'm not.

If leaving out a few first basemen from my top 10 was the story last week, I suppose the absence of Justin Verlander, Roy Halladay and Clayton Kershaw from Round 2 is this week's hot topic. Hey, I'm fine with taking those fellows early. They are stellar pitchers and certainly worth it. But I feel pretty good about the depth of starting pitching this season. For instance, Jaime Garcia, Anibal Sanchez and Colby Lewis had pretty good 2011 seasons, and yet they still didn't finish among the top 50 starting pitchers on the ESPN Player Rater. There's depth. What concerns me in the first few rounds of a draft is missing out on offense. Choosing first basemen and starting pitchers just does not seem like wise draft allocation.

So without further ado, here are thoughts on my second 10 for a standard fantasy baseball draft. And just like last week, I must offer up the proviso that this list could change at any time. But I guarantee you Yu Darvish won't be anywhere near it.

11. Joey Votto, 1B, Cincinnati Reds: "What, Karabell left him out of the top 10? Is he crazy?" Well, the first part is true. The second part is up for debate! I will say this about the great Votto: There were 24 players, including two shortstops and a catcher, who managed to hit 30 or more home runs last season. Votto was not one of them. He'll be fine, though.

12. Dustin Pedroia, 2B, Boston Red Sox: "OK, Karabell, now you've gone too far!" Or have I? Pedroia didn't exactly get blown away by infield teammate Adrian Gonzalez last season. Gonzalez finished eighth overall on the Player Rater, while Pedroia was 12th. Each trumped Votto. And while Pedroia could have some power regression coming, expecting Gonzalez to hit .338 again is no less dubious. You know what's not up for debate? The strength of these infield positions in fantasy, that's what. I'll take the second baseman. In fact, he just might end up in my top 10 at some point. I don't want to have to draft Omar Infante to play second base.

13. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Red Sox: I'll say he hits more like .315, but the power will be there. I just don't think those expecting 40 home runs will get it.

14. Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Colorado Rockies: Who cares if so much of his value comes from home games at Coors Field? We're not talking about his Hall of Fame candidacy here, like with Larry Walker or Todd Helton. CarGo was one of six players to hit more than 25 home runs and steal 20 or more bases. He did this while missing 35 games. The guy is good. If only he played second base ...

15. Ian Kinsler, 2B, Texas Rangers: This guy plays second base! And say what you will about his durability, but he's gone 30-30 twice in the past three seasons. Yes, that .255 batting average is a drag, but surely a .243 batting average on balls in play was influential. Kinsler's career batting average is .275. This is an elite middle infielder with power, speed and no reason to cease boasting either skill.

16. Curtis Granderson, OF, New York Yankees: Raise your hand if you thought he'd hit 41 home runs. He had hit 30 before, so this isn't quite Jose Bautistian, you know. Of course, Granderson also stepped up in other categories, too, which shows both his potential and his risk. He had never attempted 35 stolen bases prior in a season. He had never walked 85 times. And scoring 136 runs is something Derek Jeter has never done. You know what? Even with some regression, Granderson is worth it. I'll remove six or seven home runs, perhaps 20 RBIs and 20 runs scored from Granderson's 2011 totals, and he's still worthy of top-20 status.

17. Jose Reyes, SS, Miami Marlins: Call it a contract push if you desire -- a ship that has now sailed -- but Reyes was a dominant fantasy asset heading into the All-Star break, hitting .354 with 65 runs scored and 30 stolen bases through 80 games. Questioning motivation is a dangerous game. Reyes will make a statement in Miami, as well. Remember, Reyes still beat out Troy Tulowitzki as fantasy's top shortstop last season despite missing 36 games.

18. Mike Stanton, OF, Marlins: It's a Marlins run! Stanton is primed for his first 40-homer season, and having Reyes and a healthy Hanley Ramirez on base to set the table should help spike the low RBI total, as well. Moving to a new ballpark can't hurt, as Stanton's career numbers to this point have been better on the road. Stanton knocked in only 87 runs on his 34 home runs his sophomore season, but watch him slide past 110 RBIs when he wins the NL home run title in 2012.

19. Prince Fielder, 1B, free agent: As of this writing, Fielder remained a free agent. I have to be honest, it doesn't matter much to me where he goes; Cecil's kid brings hefty power with him. Let's not overrate his oddly extreme home/road splits from last season (1.096 OPS at Miller Park, a mere .869 OPS on the road) or the fact two of the past four seasons he has been nothing special, but at least you know he's durable, and the power will be there. Whether it will be there at the end of Round 2, where it belongs, is another matter.

20. David Wright, 3B, New York Mets: Controversy! Look, the fact most people will not need to select Wright this early is because too many people have short memories. A season ago, Wright was a second-round pick in ESPN average live drafts because he's really good, and most third basemen aren't. Wright finished in the top 20 on the 2010 Player Rater. What, now he stinks? He's over the hill? Can't hit at Citi Field? Injuries hampered Wright in 2011, and still he managed 14 home runs and 13 stolen bases in 102 games; Ryan Roberts was the only other third base-eligible player to manage double digits in power and speed. I always take a look back at last year's picks gone awry, and try to figure out what went wrong. Carl Crawford is a bit of an enigma (he's in my third round). With Wright I have fewer concerns, and third base stinks. Wright is going to bounce back strong.

And that's the second round. Sorry, no pitchers made it. Well, I'm not sorry, actually. We know you've got thoughts, so present them in an orderly fashion in the conversations area below! Make a proper argument! And let's debate!

By the way, pitchers and catchers start reporting to spring training in less than a month.