- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
As the saying goes, fantasy drafts aren't necessarily won in the first round -- or early rounds, for that matter -- but they can be lost.
I don't buy that notion anymore. All the picks count, and team depth is critical, but many owners who chose Matt Kemp, Troy Tulowitzki or Jacoby Ellsbury in the first round in 2012 still won leagues. Plus, who knows where the next Mike Trout will come from? He didn't come in the first 100 picks of any draft I saw last year.
Anyway, here is my current top 100, pre-Valentine's Day edition. Share with your significant other and start your draft prep now! I've made minor changes to my top 20 from last month, as a big trade adjusted the value of one future MVP outfielder, and let's face it, in some cases my opinion has flat-out changed following our recent fantasy baseball rankings summit. Feel free to try to convince me a player is ranked too well or too poorly! A wise fantasy owner is always willing to consider not only alternative methods and strategies but also whether new information is relevant. So here we go, my top 100, though it's hardly written in stone at this point -- except at No. 1!
1. Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels: I agree there are more reasons to make the next guy No. 1, but that doesn't make it right. The extra stolen bases sway me.
4. Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates: The fourth pick will be the most interesting pick this year. This is the lone Pirate on this list, and he's generously ranked because I think lineup protection is an absolute myth.
5. Matt Kemp, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers: All reports suggest he's healthy. Then again, does anyone say they're not healthy this time of year?
7. Albert Pujols, 1B, Angels: Looked just fine statistically after a poor April last season. He's still the top first baseman, and comparisons to Alex Rodriguez in terms of his future are just foolish.
8. Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Colorado Rockies: OK, so he won't play all 162 games, but he did go .300-30-100 as recently as 2011 and can do it again.
9. Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Rockies: Coors Field -- the awesome gift that keeps on giving.
12. Prince Fielder, 1B, Tigers: I bet most people think he hit 40 home runs and knocked in 120 runs last year. He didn't come close to that.
15. Evan Longoria, 3B, Tampa Bay Rays: If third base was as shallow for fantasy as shortstop is, then yeah, he might be in my first round too. Longoria will win an AL MVP award in the next few seasons.
17. Justin Verlander, SP, Tigers: He's awesome and all, but I'm not going to be drafting a pitcher in Round 2. I do acknowledge his value, though.
18. Clayton Kershaw, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers
19. Hanley Ramirez, SS/3B, Los Angeles Dodgers: For those who think he's done, I would say a 24-homer, 92-RBI, 21-steal season is anything but.
21. Dustin Pedroia, 2B, Boston Red Sox: Yes, I do pay attention to position scarcity in drafts. It's not like Pedroia is Omar Infante, after all. But think about what you're stuck with if you don't get a middle infielder in the first 10 rounds.
22. Jose Reyes, SS, Blue Jays: The argument against him is his durability. Um, he played in 160 games last season. Next.
24. Josh Hamilton, OF, Angels
25. Jason Heyward, OF, Atlanta Braves: There's no reason why he can't continue stealing bases, and more plate discipline will help his batting average.
26. David Price, SP, Tampa Bay Rays
27. Edwin Encarnacion, 1B, Toronto Blue Jays: Yeah, that 2012 season was real, and it was spectacular.
31. Buster Posey, C, San Francisco Giants: Go ahead and take a catcher in the first round, but don't complain when annual "catcher things," like an injury that a guy plays through or general fatigue, crop up. They always do. Last year's first half (.289 average, 10 homers, 43 RBIs) is far more repeatable than his second half (.385 with a .423 BABIP, 14 homers, 60 RBIs).
33. Stephen Strasburg, SP, Nationals: Who has two thumbs and thinks the Nationals will be really good this season? This guy! Strasburg isn't as much of an injury risk as most believe.
34. Jay Bruce, OF, Reds: This underrated power option seems to be slipping in drafts for no legit reason.
35. Cliff Lee, SP, Phillies: This year he'll win six games by mid-May. Don't look at wins when drafting pitchers, ever.
36. Curtis Granderson, OF, Yankees: Can't say I want a guy hitting .240 on my teams, but his other numbers are nice.
37. Brandon Phillips, 2B, Reds: Hits 18 home runs every year. No, really. And he still runs plenty.
38. Ben Zobrist, 2B/SS/OF, Rays: The multi-eligibility thing will really help when you're dealing with injuries in July. Trust me on that.
39. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Dodgers
40. B.J. Upton, OF, Braves: A fantasy owner can prepare for his low batting average. Getting a power/speed combo like this is still rare. He and Drew Stubbs are the only players with at least 14 home runs and 30 stolen bases each of the past three seasons.
41. Matt Cain, SP, Giants
44. Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, Red Sox: What's more likely, 150 games or 20 home runs? Probably neither, but if he runs like he used to and hits double-digit home runs, he's worth more than Cleveland's new center fielder (No. 62 on this list).
46. Zack Greinke, SP, Dodgers: Gotta love the new home ballpark, at the very least. Here comes the second-best season of his career.
47. Allen Craig, 1B, St. Louis Cardinals: Pretty great value last year, solid fifth-rounder.
49. Brett Lawrie, 3B, Blue Jays: No, I'm not even close to giving up on a potential 20/20 third baseman.
50. Yu Darvish, SP, Rangers: Top-10 pitcher likely to contend for the strikeout title.
52. Mark Teixeira, 1B, Yankees: Hatred for this guy has gone way overboard. Sure, he might not hit .260, but his power is still there.
53. Austin Jackson, OF, Tigers: He says he'll run more this year. I'm just hoping the BABIP gods continue to support him.
54. Adam Wainwright, SP, Cardinals
55. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Nationals
56. Jered Weaver, SP, Angels: Just remember both Verlander and Kershaw lost seven wins off their 2011 totals. That could easily happen to Weaver.
58. Yadier Molina, C, St. Louis Cardinals: The power is real. I'm not saying he'll hit 30 home runs this season, but this is your No. 2-ranked catcher, and he's a better value per draft position than the No. 1.
59. Jimmy Rollins, SS, Phillies
60. Ian Desmond, SS, Nationals
61. Desmond Jennings, OF, Rays: He'll run and hit for power, and I refuse to presume he'll always hit for a low batting average. He's just 26.
62. Michael Bourn, OF, Indians: A nice player, but overrated nonetheless. There's hardly a guarantee he'll steal 50 bases again.
63. Madison Bumgarner, SP, Giants
64. Alex Gordon, OF, Royals: Durable and versatile, try not to read into the drop in his counting numbers. He could easily raise them again.
65. R.A. Dickey, SP, Blue Jays
67. Martin Prado, 3B/OF, Diamondbacks: Him, too.
68. Roy Halladay, SP, Phillies: Tremendous bargain in the seventh round if healthy. Remember, he was fantasy's top pitcher off the draft board last year. Oh, so now he's too old.
69. Craig Kimbrel, RP, Braves: He'll probably go four rounds earlier in your drafts. No, I don't see him falling off a statistical cliff this year, but I'm fine building a bullpen a different way.
70. Matt Moore, SP, Rays: Still a pending fantasy monster. Get in now in dynasty formats.
71. David Ortiz, DH, Red Sox: Ignore the top designated hitter if you must because it lessens team versatility, but you'll be awfully disappointed in the power options available after Round 10.
72. Shane Victorino, OF, Red Sox: Still has pop, still runs and still has a job. I'm not saying he'll mash right-handed pitching ever again, but he's far from done.
73. Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Brewers
74. Kris Medlen, SP, Braves: A great mystery, frankly. Can make a case for him being top-30 or outside the top 100.
75. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Diamondbacks: Arizona will be just fine without Upton.
76. Gio Gonzalez, SP, Nationals
78. Pablo Sandoval, 3B, Giants
80. Alex Rios, OF, White Sox: With him, I'm worried he's an every-other-year guy, um, because he's shown it.
81. Shin-Soo Choo, OF, Reds: Center field? Really? That said, I like him and think he can go 20/20 and score many runs.
82. CC Sabathia, SP, Yankees: This rank might scream that I don't like him or that I think he'll get hurt, but remember, I've generally downgraded all pitching. Sabathia does make my top 20 starting pitchers.
83. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS, Indians
84. Carlos Santana, C, Indians: Hey, it's not like the next guy that everyone seems to love hits for a high batting average either. And Santana is the one that walks a ton.
85. Matt Wieters, C, Orioles
86. Eric Hosmer, 1B, Royals: I'm going to regret not keeping him in my top 50. Don't give up on young players that you loved a year prior!
87. Chase Utley, 2B, Phillies: Double digits in home runs and stolen bases every season despite missing all these games. What if he doesn't miss all these games again?
88. Jordan Zimmermann, SP, Nationals
90. Freddie Freeman, 1B, Braves
91. Johnny Cueto, SP, Reds
92. Paul Konerko, 1B, White Sox: Another old fellow apparently in "steep" decline, except he hit .298 with 26 home runs. Not even close to toast, and he'll fall further than this, but why tempt fate in your drafts?
93. Mat Latos, SP, Reds
94. Elvis Andrus, SS, Rangers: I never thought he'd hit for big power, but this is ridiculous. At least steal 40 bases, Elvis, not half that total.
95. Ike Davis, 1B, Mets
96. Brett Gardner, OF, Yankees: In 2011, he had Bourn-like numbers but could be had at a major discount. And he will again, for some reason.
97. Nelson Cruz, OF, Rangers: Like Pence, Cruz still hits for power, even registering career highs in RBIs and games. Yet he's dropping in all leagues.
99. Melky Cabrera, OF, Blue Jays: A year ago nobody thought Braun, amid PED controversy, could have another great season. Melky isn't nearly as talented, but he's got game.
100. Aroldis Chapman, RP, Reds: He's more likely to save 40 games than pitch 200 innings, but as long as he's healthy, you want him. Draft skills, not roles.