- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
Naming just a handful of players I like for this fantasy baseball season isn't as easy as it sounds. In truth, I like many. I'd love, for example, if Joey Votto and Roy Halladay were still available in the third round. Of course, that's not going to happen. So in trying to determine the "players I like," I tend to name players I keep ending up with on my myriad teams. I've drafted quite a bit already, in many different formats and league sizes (ie. not just mixed and 5x5 leagues).
As a result, the players I keep ending up with -- even in mock drafts, I still select as if it is my most important league -- can be considered "my guys," because I obviously like them more than my fellow owners. So unless I have the first pick in every draft, I can't call Albert Pujols part of the club. In fact, I don't have him in any league, best I can tell. But I'll go position-by-position and bold the players I keep getting, whether it's because I'd take them a round earlier (in draft league) than my fellow owners or for a dollar or two more in auction leagues.
Catchers: In our first in-house mock draft I spent a fourth-round pick on Victor Martinez, but each time since then, I've waited a good, long time to fill my catcher spot, at least in standard leagues. As a result, I've ended up with the New York Yankees' Jorge Posada on a few squads, and Kurt Suzuki on a few others. I do own Joe Mauer and Buster Posey in keeper leagues, but in general, I'm eschewing the top 10 catchers in drafts. In deep leagues, among those I've acquired include John Jaso, Jonathan Lucroy, Josh Thole and even Hank Conger.
First base: A month ago, before it became painfully obvious his body wouldn't comply, I would have said Lance Berkman. However, the converted St. Louis Cardinals outfielder isn't playing much these days, and I've been avoiding him to the point I'm even letting him go undrafted (as are others, apparently). I love Miguel Cabrera any spot after the top three overall, and have him in a few leagues. Before his most recent DUI, he was ESPN Fantasy's No. 2 pick. Then he dropped to No. 13. Now he's at No. 7. For me, he has been No. 3 all along. I've generally waited at this position until a double-digit round, which is why Paul Konerko, Aubrey Huff and Gaby Sanchez are starters for me in a few leagues, even at first base rather than corner infield. I realize Huff has been an "every-other year" player, but I think he breaks that string this season.
Second base: I own Chase Utley in a keeper league and let me tell you, I can't deal him. I've tried. Nobody is that gullible. I wouldn't consider him in the first five rounds of a one-year league. Brandon Phillips is on a few of my teams, underrated as he is, and an off-the-radar guy I seem to be choosing is Tampa Bay Rays free-swinger Sean Rodriguez. I could see, in a perfect world, 15 homers and 20 stolen bases from him, and value him more than most. I'm sticking with Gordon Beckham in two keeper leagues as well, and looking deeper, I'm paying close attention to Eric Young Jr. and Brad Emaus, thought I'm not as optimistic about them as I was a few weeks ago.
Shortstop: In two recent drafts, armed with consecutive picks in the seventh and eighth round -- oh how I really do love picking last in the first round! -- I went with both Stephen Drew and Alexei Ramirez. I might have jumped them a round or two in each case, but so what; I don't like the value of the shortstops ranked just higher than them -- notably Jimmy Rollins and Elvis Andrus -- and I don't expect much from the shortstops ranked behind them. So Drew and Ramirez appear to be my guys, perhaps to a fault. I've invested in Reid Brignac in a pair of deep leagues as well. Love those Rays. Watch them contend again this season.
Third base: David Wright is on many of my teams, probably because I view the 15th-best hitter from last season's Player Rater as a top 10 overall player. I've taken him in the first round a few times. Similar to Berkman, I've backed off my Adrian Beltre love somewhat, because of health concerns, but I do feel more confident he'll be fine. Casey McGehee and David Freese are others I like when the price is right.
Outffield: Well, there are probably too many outfielders to name. Matt Kemp, Justin Upton and Jason Heyward are top-20 outfielders I will apparently need big campaigns from (hint, hint). I've stockpiled 20/20 options on numerous teams, led by Chris Young, Drew Stubbs and annual fave Bobby Abreu, and have wished for this speed from Colby Rasmus. Among later picks, I can't give up on Chris Coghlan, still believe in Ryan Raburn and expect worthy production from Ben Francisco, Michael Morse and Matt Joyce. They're on more than one of my teams.
Starting pitcher: I seem to be getting the same pitchers on many teams, so apparently I really like Hiroki Kuroda, Ryan Dempster, Wandy Rodriguez (and other Astros), John Danks, Ted Lilly, Travis Wood and, in deep leagues, Kyle McClellan. Check your league rules; having someone eligible at relief pitcher accumulating starting pitcher statistics, as I think he will, can be invaluable.
Relief pitcher: I'm sure you know my drill by now. I'm not sure I've ever owned Mariano Rivera. He's awesome, the best ever, but I can get the same 35 saves a good 10 rounds later, and often do. What a shame Todd Jones retired. People used to think I was either related to him or had his rookie card. Anyway, I have Francisco Cordero on a bunch of teams, which I find only somewhat disconcerting, as well as Ryan Franklin, Brandon Lyon, Frank Francisco and Leo Nunez, appreciating that I can get them in the later rounds. One more thing: I've stockpiled Craig Kimbrel in a few places. I'm a bit less sure about his chances for 25 saves, but for the leagues I have him in, I'll take his low ERA and 100 strikeouts and get the saves elsewhere if I must.