Catcher - AJ Pierzynski, White Sox, 35 yrs old, 15th season
If you're like me and randomly peruse the fangraphs leaderboards, no doubt you've stumbled across a players numbers and thought to yourself, "no shit? he really put up those numbers?" This reaction could come out of complete shock at how good a season a player is really having (Edwin Encarnacion anyone?) or it could be an established veteran having a career year (a la Chase Headley). Maybe its a player with minimal service time but is putting up numbers that will generate plenty of buzz come draft day next season for your fantasy league. This is my team, based on a highly sophisticated ranking system and top secret formula with reserve's at each position. All rankings mentioned are for that position unless otherwise stated. Lets check out the infield today and the OF/DH will be posted tomorrow.
- Pierzynski is one of those established veterans mentioned above. He has a career slash line of 284/324/429/753, however this easily stands out as his best season slugging with a career high 26 bombs to go with another career high 119 wRC+ and .353 wOBA. His ground ball percentage has dropped a full 9 points from last year and his -2.1 Fld rating is not far off from his career average of -1.4
Reserve - AJ Ellis, Dodgers, 31 yrs old, 5th season
- It took awhile for Ellis to get a good amount of playing time under his belt, but he has thrived in his first starting gig. His .374 OBP ranks 6th in the majors and 5th in the NL. His 3.6 fWAR also ranks 5th for catchers. His fielding is essentially replacement level but it takes more than one season to get a good grasp on a players fielding based on any sort of metric.
1B - Allen Craig, Cardinals, 28 yrs old, 3rd season
-After an injury-plagued 2011, Craig has remained healthy enough to pass 450 plate appearances for the first time in the bigs and did not disappoint. He hit in line with his stellar .900+ OPS from last year but was able to sustain over twice the PA. Although his fielding is below average, it's not so much as to cripple his team. His .308 batting average ranks 2nd only to Joey Votto, his OBP ranks 5th, and his slugging % comes in at 3rd, His 145 wRC+ is tied for 3rd for first baseman with a guy named Prince. Keep in mind Craig's age as this should be the beginning of his peak years of production. His 145 wRC+ and .380 wOBA has also outproduced the man he replaced at first base. (Pujols - 134 wRC+ .362 wOBA)
Reserve - Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks, 25 yrs old, 2nd season
- The light tower power Goldschmidt showed his whole minor league career has yet to come aside from a few monster shots here and there. The surprise with him this year has been his 16 stolen bases. He has an outside shot at a 20/20 season this year with slightly above average defense that wears out the gaps leading him to 39 doubles this year. Once Goldy is able to get some of those doubles to clear the wall, a 30-40 HR season wouldn't be out of the question.
2B - Neil Walker, Pirates, 27 yrs old, 4th season
- Ladies(?) and Gentleman, Neil Walker in a nutshell. Walker's 2012 is almost completely in line with his career norms of 279/338/425/763. He has already set a career high in HR and fWAR and his Fld rating is also the best of his 4 years in the bigs. His walk rate has steadily improved from 7.2% his rookie year to 8.2% in 2011, to 8.8% where it currently sits. His defense is also trending in the right direction (2010: -10.7, 2011: -3.2, 2012: 2.4). Walker has now cemented himself as a top 10 2B and possibly top 5 for some.
Reserve(tie) - Danny Espinosa, Nationals, 25 yrs old, 3rd season AND Mark Ellis, Dodgers, 35 yrs old, 10th season
- The only tie in the process is here where Espinosa and Ellis came up dead even in my proprietary formula. If push comes to shove, I prefer Espinosa's superior fielding (9th in MLB, all positions) and legit 20/20 threat to Ellis. If Espinosa can turn around his K%(28.9) and BB%(6.6), a break out could be looming. Ellis' counting stats aren't nearly as impressive as Espinosa's, but he did miss a good chunk of the season to injury with only 97 games played. Even so he has still managed a more than respectable 2.9 fWAR. His .346 OBP is tied for 4th in the majors at 2B with Dustin Pedroia and Dan Uggla while his fielding comes in 5th behind Omar Infante.
3B - Chase Headley, Padres, 28 yrs old, 6th season
- With Chase Headley, it was always a case of when, not if, he would breakout and become a superstar. It was commonly thought that his breakout wouldn't come unless he was moved out of the expansive Petco Park. Instead, he just mashed when he was on the road to the tune of a 303/392/542/934 slash line. He's posting career highs in just about every offensive category, including SLG, R HR, RBI, fWAR, XBH, BB(75), wRC+ (140), wOBA (.370), BB% (11.8), ISO (.204), and HR/FB (21.9%). To put his season in perspective, he's tied for 2nd with Miguel Cabrera in fWAR, he's 2nd outright in wRC+ behind Cabrera but just ahead of David Wright, he's 5th in wOBA just ahead of Chipper Jones, he's tied for 6th in OPS with the ageless wonder that is Chipper. Welcome to the elite, Chase Headley
Reserve - David Freese, Cardinals, 29 yrs old, 4th season
- Freese made his name in the 2011 postseason and showed he can ball in his first full injury free season. While he may not be in the upper echelon of hitters yet, he is 7th in fWAR, 7th in wRC+, 8th in wOBA, 8th in OPS, and 11th in BB%. The power is coming and his walk rate is definitely heading in the right direction. Paired with Allen Craig, the Cards are set on the corners for the next 4-5 seasons in an ideal world.
SS - Ian Desmond, Nationals, 27 yrs old, 4th season
- To be able to miss a month of the season to injury and still rank in the top 2 of your postition in fWAR, something definitely went right. The power was projected for Desmond all along and he finally found it in his 3rd year starting at short for the Nationals. His line drive rate has risen from 15.8 in his rookie year to 18.5 so far this year. He is another 20/20 threat in the Washington batting order and is going to form a very solid core up the middle the Danny Espinosa for years to come. The talent in the Nats organization is coming to the top all at the same time and is setting them up to be able to repeat their success this year and Desmond producing like he has at arguably the most important position on the diamond is one of many reasons why.
Reserve - Erick Aybar, Angels, 28 yrs old, 7th season
- Aybar has very quietly put together a solid season in Anaheim. Its easy for him to blend into the background with superstars like Pujols and Trout grabbing all the headlines, but he's put together the 5th best fWAR for a SS this year. He also ranks 5th in AVG, 6th in wRC+, 9th in hits and 9th in wOBA. One thing he can not do is take a walk. His 3.9% BB rate is horrible, like 7th worst in all of baseball horrible.