Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Who's Number One in Fantasy?

Let the debates begin (ESPN)
With the Super Bowl over and Spring Training just days away, it's time to start making preparations (if you haven't already) for fantasy baseball.

One scenario that every player must prepare for is what he'll do if the fantasy gods bless him with the top pick in his draft. That hasn't required much thought the last few years, as Mike Trout was clearly the top choice in fantasy due to his age and all-around skill set, but with the emergence of Bryce Harper it's not so clear-cut. And could Paul Goldschmidt really be a better fantasy option than both of them? Let's find out.

The case for Trout:
Trout isn't quite as valuable in fantasy as he once was due to his shrinking stolen base totals and back-to-back seasons below .300, but he's still arguably the top choice. Trout's sacrificed some average for power the last two years, which has helped him produce career-highs in home runs both seasons. He's now a threat to go yard 40 times which, combined with his huge runs/RBI figures and double-digit stolen base totals, guarantees elite production across the board. His averages, while not what they once were, are still pretty good, making him a true five-category contributor. Trout's also been phenomenal at making adjustments since arriving in the majors, which makes him a good bet to maintain, if not improve on, his stellar numbers (it'd be nice if the Angels put some decent hitters around him, though). Draft Trout with confidence, make sure he's in your lineup Opening Day, and forget about him the rest of the season.

My Projections: 110 R 37 HR 96 RBI 13 SB .295 BA

The case for Harper
When healthy, Harper has the potential to be the best player in baseball, as he proved last year when he batted .330/.460/.649 (205 OPS+) with 42 home runs and 9.9 bWAR. "When healthy" is the key phrase there, as 2015 marked the first time in four seasons that Harper eclipsed 140 games. He also doesn't run much anymore, with only eight steals in his past two seasons, so he's more of a four-category stud. But man, he'll carry you in those four categories. He might be the only player in baseball capable of winning a batting title and a home run crown (which he nearly did last year), and he should be good for around 100 runs and RBI again. The RBI total might drop to "disappointing" Joey Votto levels because of his weak supporting cast and how often he gets walked with guys on base, but he'll still be a boon in that department. Plus he's only 23, which means he might, you know, get better (only kidding).

My Projections: 111 R 38 HR 105 RBI 7 SB .311 BA

The case for Goldschmidt
Arizona's first baseman is a true five-category monster--Miguel Cabrera if Cabrera could run. He's batted over .300 each of the past three years and exceeded 30 home runs, 100 runs/RBI, and double digits steals in the two seasons where he was healthy. Nobody else has done that multiple times during that span, making Goldy the best bet to provide help in all five departments. He's 28, plays everyday, and calls one of the friendliest hitter's parks in the majors home. All signs point to another big season from Goldschmidt, especially if A.J. Pollock repeats his breakout batting in front of him.

My Projections: 103 R 34 HR 112 RBI 19 SB .316 BA

My gut says to go with Trout, but based on the numbers I actually think I like Goldschmidt a bit more. I'd expect him to hit for a higher average, steal more bases, and knock in a few more runs. However, you usually need at least three (often five) outfielders as opposed to only one first baseman, so positional scarcity might sway me back to Team Trout.

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