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If you're a Chicago baseball fan, there's a lot to like in this year's pre-season fantasy rankings for first base and third base, including my sizable but calculated gamble to rank one of the local boys as the top fantasy find at his position.
1. Paul Goldschmidt, ARI.
The top choice by a surprisingly wide margin. Interestingly, given all his mega-stats - .321 BA, 33 HRs, 110 RBI, 21 SBs, 103 runs, 182 hits, 1.105 OPS - he led 1Bs only in SBs, runs and OPS last year. Yet, that shows how much across-the-board value he has.
2. Miguel Cabrera, DET.
His .338 BA led all at the position, but his 119 games last year was the fewest he's played since his 2003 rookie year. Given longer off-season rest with DET out of the playoff mix last year, I think he can hit 25 HRs, 100 RBI, while still making a .340 BA look easy.
3. Anthony Rizzo, CUBS.
Looking like a regular 30 HR, 100 RBI guy, and maybe more if he continues to hit lefties well. I think he gets more rest this year, so we'll see if that boosts his numbers as he stays fresh, or if his overall stats slide a little bit given fewer opportunities.
4. Jose Abreu, WHITE SOX.
Another local who looks like a regular 30/100 candidate. Abreu might also hit for better average than Rizzo, though probably will score fewer runs. There is still even a possibility he could explode for something like .320, 40/120, though I'd be surprised.
5. Joey Votto, CIN.
Was a great draft find last year when many of us assumed age, a losing team and occasionally poor attitude would result in unimpressive stats. His walks will lead to one of the best OPS figures at 1B (1.000 OPS last year), and still a 25 HR, 80 RBI, .300 BA threat.
6. Edwin Encarnacion, TOR.
When you hit 39 HRs and 111 RBIs, but you're only the third- or fourth-best hitter in your lineup, that means you're a Blue Jay. Reliable slugger should do more of the same this year, but stat value doesn't stretch beyond HRs, RBI and runs.
7. Buster Posey, SF.
If you get over the fact he's just never going to hit more than 20-25 HRs, he's a great fantasy value in every other way. .318 BA and 177 hits were top five for both stats among 1Bs, and he remains a pretty good threat for 90-100 RBI.
8. Chris Davis, BAL.
Huge comeback season of 47 HRs, 117 RBI, 100 runs, respectable .262 BA after he infamously hit just .196 with 26 HRs in 2014. Will he do it again as he turns 30 before this season? Those power numbers assure someone will accept the risk he goes the other way again.
9. Prince Fielder, TEX.
Another massive comeback year that might make him a bargain at this spot. His 187 hits led all 1Bs, and while his 23 HRs were his fewest for a full season in his career, his 98 RBI, .305 BA suggest he's accepted that he doesn't need to hit 40 HRs to be productive.
10. Adrian Gonzalez, LAD.
He quietly had more HRs last year (28) than in any season since 2010, but last season also featured his fewest RBI (90) for a 150+-game season since 2008. Still productive and close enough to 100 RBI year-in and year-out that he still has starter fantasy value.
11. Eric Hosmer, KC.
Great 2015 featured 178 hits, third-most among 1Bs, 18 HRs, 93 RBI, .297 BA and .822 OPS. Feels like he's still getting better, but probably will never be the 30+ HR guy. Still, someone who will give you some kind of fantasy points every single day.
12. Freddie Freeman, ATL.
I championed him as the next big thing at 1B two years straight, but he hasn't delivered. Last year's .276 BA, 18 HRs, 66 RBI could be called incomplete, as he was limited to 118 games, but it's becoming clear he doesn't have 30 HR power or .330 contact.
13. Albert Pujols, LAA.
Stunning return to the 40-HR club last year was mitigated by a career-low .244 BA. He was only five RBI away from a 40/100 season, which would have put him in company only with Davis, but he's on the wrong side of 36 to do it again.
14. David Ortiz, BOS.
Will he save his best year for his last? After hitting 37 HRs and 108 RBI at age 39 last year, both highest numbers since his 2007 MVP campaign, it seems possible he could come close at age 40, but not probable.
15. Kendrys Morales, KC.
Quietly finding his way back to starter fantasy value, with 22 HRs, 106 RBI (most since 2009) and .290 BA last year. Wouldn't be surprised if he has another 100 RBI season in him and can clear the fence a few more times, but not exactly betting on it.
16. Brandon Belt, SF.
Played 137 games last year, but managed 18 HRs and 68 RBI, both career highs. Always seems about to break out and approach the magical threshold of 30 HR, 100 RBI, but we haven't seen it happen yet. Could this be his year?
17. Mark Teixeira, NYY.
Incredibly productive 111-game season featured 31 HRs, his most since 2011. Dingers represented almost a third of his 100 hits, but as always, the injury threat is near-constant and his BA ceiling of .250 or so leaves us wanting more.
18. Brian McCann, NYY.
Another Yankee power hitter who won't offer much else, McCann at least clubbed a career-high 26 HRs and 94 RBI last year. You would probably draft him to fill the catcher spot, where he has much more value.
19. Jonathan Lucroy, MIL.
After Posey and McCann, the third (but not last) 1B with eligibility at catcher. His 2015 was shortened to 103 games by injury, but his 2014 breakout that featured 53 doubles, .301 BA, .837 OPS still intrigues. Plus, he likely will get traded to a contender.
20. Stephen Vogt, OAK.
After a brief, productive 2014 stint, his 2015 overall results weren't all that impressive: 18 HRs, 71 RBI, .784 OPS, but look at his first half: 14 HRs, 56 RBI, .872 OPS. Catcher eligibility helps, and if he gets more consistent and stays healthy, he could yield greater value.
Sleeper: Adam Lind, SEA.
2015 campaign with MIL - 20 HRs, 87 RBI, .820 OPS - was a throwback to his early career success in TOR. SEA isn't quite the same hitters' park, unfortunately, but his 66 walks last year were a career high, so thinking his selectivity could yield similar results this year.
1. Kris Bryant, CUBS.
If you don't like a little risk, then take the next guy over our boy KB, but 26 HR, 99 RBI, 13 SBs, 87 runs, .275 BA last year as a massively hyped rookie who was under tremendous pressure on a contending team tells me we've barely scratched the surface.
2. Josh Donaldson, TOR.
The 2015 MVP - the only player with both 120+ RBI and runs last year - is the safest bet you can make at 3B, given Bryant could still slump at times while figuring things out. He's the linchpin in a hyper-productive (at least in the regular season) lineup.
3. Nolan Arenado, COL.
MLB RBI leader last year with 130, and honestly underrated in Bryant's shadow, as he could still do more damage this year at age 25, and given his other 2015 stats: 42 HRs, 43 doubles, 97 runs, .287 BA, .898 OPS.
4. Manny Machado, BAL.
Do his 35 HRs, 20 SBs last year suggest a 30/30 man this year, maybe even 40/30? Those 20 swipes at age 23 led all players at this position. His 102 runs in 2015 were second only to Donaldson. Also, he's eligible at SS.
5. Todd Frazier, WHITE SOX.
We should probably write off the supposed power boost provided by playing at The Cell after seeing Adams LaRoche and Dunn fizzle, but easy to see 2015's HR Derby King hitting more than the 35 he hit last year. Occasional SB threat, too, with 13 last year.
6. Miguel Sano, MIN.
18 HRs and a .915 OPS in the first 279 at-bats of his career last year has us expecting a proportionate power increase, along with hopes he doesn't slump like he seemed to near the end of the season.
7. Matt Carpenter, STL.
Hit .272 for the second straight year, but regained relevance by hitting 28 HRs, 20 more than in 2014. Still a scary-good situational hitter. Not sure if he will reproduce last year's power numbers, but always a productive hitter and run-scorer (101 last year.)
8. Anthony Rendon, WAS.
Got top pre-season fantasy consideration last year on the back of a multi-stat breakout in 2014, but injury blew up his 2015 season. Didn't do enough in his late-season return to earn a higher spot, but still a pretty clear 20 HR/20 SB threat.
9. Adrian Beltre, TEX.
His career is winding down, with his 18 HRs, .287 BA and .788 OPS in 2015, all his lowest in several years, but 83 RBI, 83 runs and overall consistency through the years suggest he's a safe bet once again in 2015, especially if you draft other positions earlier than 3B.
10. Kyle Seager, SEA.
His final numbers for 2015 look pretty good, especially career-high 26 HRs, 37 doubles, 166 hits and 85 runs, but he was frustratingly streaky and almost worthless in the first half of the season. Dropped from 96 RBI in 2014 to 74 last year, so we'll look for more this year.
11. Maikel Franco, PHI.
While Bryant, Sano and Duffy (below) earned a lot more press, Franco quietly added his name to the list of young stars at this position, with 14 HRs, 50 RBI and a .280 BA in 305 at-bats. Sounds like a 30/100 prospect at some point, but not sure about this year.
12. Matt Duffy, SF.
If you're the last team in a 12-team league to draft a 3B, you could do much worse than the guy who was fourth in hits at 3B as a rookie with 169. 12 HRs, 77 RBI, 12 SBs, 28 doubles, six triples and .295 BA show us a multi-stat threat. He also is eligible at 2B.
13. Jung Ho Kang, PIT.
A 28-year-old doesn't always sound promising, and Kang started slow, but really built his fantasy case after his first 100 games. Alas, he only played 126 games in an injury-shortened season, but 12 HRs, 58 RBI, .287 BA and .816 OPS suggest a bigger breakout this year.
14. Mike Moustakas, KC.
Hot postseason of 2014 was his breakthrough moment, and he carried it through last season with 22 HRs, 82 RBI, .284 BA, .817 OPS, all career highs that suggest he's finally fulfilling his long-held promise and possibly still due for even slightly better stats.
15. Evan Longoria, TB.
Still some fantasy value, but has staked his claim as a guy who will get you 20-25 HRs, 70+ RBI and enough hits in between to stay under consideration to be in your starting lineup - although maybe more often as a UTIL or off-day replacement.
16. David Wright, NYM.
Small sample size last year of 150 at-bats from the often-injured former stud, but he seemed revived by the Mets' run to the postseason, and I thought his .289 BA and .814 OPS were pretty good signs of ongoing value if he can stay healthy.
17. Daniel Murphy, WAS.
The ridiculous run of post-season power may have been a mirage (although his 14 HRs in the regular season were, barely, a career-high.) Yet, a .280s hitter with prospects for 70+ RBI and 35-40 doubles is nice to have on your bench.
18. Justin Turner, LAD.
The one overachiever in an underachieving lineup, he had 16 HRs, 60 RBI, 55 runs in just 385 at-bats. All those figures were career-highs for a 31-year-old, nice for his scrapbook, but hard to imagine his numbers will really explode even given 150 more at-bats.
19. Joey Gallo, TEX.
In a couple brief stretches, he looked every bit the feast-or-famine long-ball hitter we expected. If he gets a full season in the majors, or close to it, he could hit 30-40 HRs and not do much else. He's not your Opening Day fantasy starter, but worth a late bench spot.
20. Brett Lawrie, WHITE SOX.
16 HRs, 60 RBI, 29 doubles, 146 hits last year all career highs, and he's 26, so there's some potential he gets better, and if you're really optimistic, benefits from The Cell effect and takes hitting cues from new teammates Frazier and Abreu.
Sleeper: Trevor Plouffe, MIN.
His 86 RBI were fifth-best at 3B last year, and along with 22 HRs and 35 RBI, added up to a pretty good season. His. 244 BA kept him from being more than an occasional waiver wire pickup, but still seems like a guy who could someday explode for 30 HRs.
* The (Tied At The) Top 40.
Dan O'Shea is our man in fantasyland. He welcomes your comments.
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