78 – Number of days until pitchers and catchers report
125 – Number of days until Opening Day
Monday did not provide the fireworks in the Hot Stove that we saw last weekend. There were no blockbuster trades or noteworthy signings, I will give you my top 5 fantasy players for the 2014 season. It's never to early too start building your fantasy draft strategy that you will execute in March. And, for those of us that have completely punted their interest in fantasy football because all it takes to win is luck and no actual strategies can be applied in that game, let's turn our attention to the most rewarding fantasy game - fantasy baseball.....
Top 5 Fantasy Players for 2014
1. MIKE TROUT
Mike Trout has the incredible combination of hitting for power and having outstanding speed. Because of that combination, Trout is my preseason selection to be the 2014 American League Most Valuable Player. Miguel Cabrera will continue to hit for power and provide fantasy owners with a solid batting average. However, the separation between Trout and Cabrera lies with speed and defense. Trout displays that speed on the bases and in the outfield and with Peter Bourjos being traded to the St. Louis Cardinals last week, Trout will settle back into centerfield every day. Trout is a legitimate .300 hitter that will continue to provide fantasy owners with above average power, stolen bases, runs scored, and he provides solid RBI production. In 2013, Trout had 97 RBI and he hit leadoff most nights. At 22-years old, he is going to continue to post impressive offensive numbers and will continue to be the #1 selection on draft day for a long time.
2. MIGUEL CABRERA
Miguel Cabrera has been the best hitter in baseball the past two years. However, the injury bug caught up to him in the second half this year and he was not himself down the stretch of the season or the playoffs. It was a surprise that the injury woes that bothered Cabrera the past month-plus did not crop up in 2012. It can be argued the fact he was healthy all of 2012 masked that injury was always a possibility. Fantasy owners are left to assume this will drop him out of the top spot next spring. It does for me.
3. PAUL GOLDSCHMIDT
Most experts that will give you their rankings will have Paul Goldschmidt in the first round, but not many will put him this high. Coming into the 2013 campaign, my concern was whether Goldschmidt would regress from the previous season with respect to contact rate. My fears were unfounded as Goldschmidt's present strikeout rate was even lower by a wide margin. Now, add in his 30-plus homers and steals in the teens and we have a perennial top-five fantasy pick in his prime.
4. ANDREW McCUTCHEN
Andrew McCutchen led the Pittsburgh Pirates to their first winning season since 1992, batting .317 with 21 homers, 84 RBI and 27 steals while playing Gold Glove-caliber defense. Like with Mike Trout, there were questions about McCutchen's ability to repeat the .327 average he posted in 2012. And like Trout, he improved his contact rate while drawing more walks. McCutchen's power might has dropped a little bit from 2012, but McCutchen is still one of only three players to hit at least 20 homers and steal at least 25 bases. The others are Trout and Carlos Gomez.
5. CARLOS GONZALEZ
I know...I know.... Carlos Gonzalez will not play an entire season. I get it, but I also know that if he were to stay healthy, the argument could easily be made that Gonzalez slide in to the top 3 behind just Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera. There is risk with every player on the board, so by placing Gonzalez in my top 5, I'll accept the risk that I'd rather take the 400-500 plate appearances from him and hope for more. In 2013, Cargo only had 391 plate appearances, but in the three previous seasons, he averaged 528 plate appearances and still posted 25 or more home runs in each of those seasons with solid RBI production.