Fantasy Sports are rapidly becoming an American pastime. Thousands of jobs have become a necessity as a result. For example, sports television networks such as ESPN have entire shows and segments dedicated solely to Fantasy Sports. There are experts hired to research facts and statistical predictions on how to help prepare fantasy participants to build the perfect team. For anyone who does not know how fantasy sports work—let’s use fantasy baseball for this matter—it goes like this: There are usually 8, 10 or 12 teams in a fantasy league. Each team is managed by an individual. I, for example, play fantasy baseball every year with a few buddies from high school. Before each baseball season starts, a fantasy “draft” is held. During the draft, each team takes turns picking players from each MLB team. Usually, the team will be constructed just like a normal baseball team—nine position players and a staff of pitchers—is built. As the players record specific individual statistics, they are added up and totaled. The fantasy team that has the most categories with the higher point total wins the matchup, which lasts a week.
What goes into making a good fantasy team? Each year, the fantasy “experts” create rankings which are based on each player’s stats in previous years. Obviously, the highest ranked players are picked first, and later on in the draft, fantasy managers must make decisions on who they think will have a better year than any of these experts expected.
Here are my predictions for who will be the best performers for each position:
Catcher: Buster Posey, Giants
First Base: Joey Votto, Reds
Second Base: Jason Kipnis, Indians
Third Base: Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals
Shortstop: Starlin Castro, Cubs
Left Field: Yoenis Cespedes, Athletics
Center Field: Andrew McCutchen, Pirates
Right Field: Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins
Pitching is a unique part of fantasy baseball. Starting pitchers make 80 percent less daily contribution to the team than position players (they only make a start every fifth game) because position players play every day. Relief pitchers are usually only added to rosters if they fulfill the closer role on their respective team. Here are my top 10 starting/relief pitchers for 2013:
SP: Justin Verlander, Tigers
SP: Felix Hernandez, Mariners
SP: Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
SP: Stephen Strasburg, Nationals
SP: Cole Hamels, Phillies
SP: David Price, Rays
RP: Jonathan Papelbon, Phillies
RP: Craig Kimbrel, Braves
RP: Aroldis Chapman, Reds
RP: Joe Nathan, Rangers
Each year, a handful of players come out of nowhere and have breakout seasons. Last year, rookie Mike Trout of the Angels had an incredible statistical season. He broke almost every major statistical category that was set before he started the season. Here are my “breakout players” to watch for this year:
Pitcher: Brandon McCarthy, Athletics
Catcher: Jesus Montero, Mariners
Corner Infield: Brett Lawrie, Blue Jays / Eric Hosmer, Royals
Middle Infied: Josh Rutledge, Rockies / Jose Altuve, Astros
Outfield: Lorenzo Cain, Royals / Norichika Aoki, Brewers
There are some guys who play every year, and no matter what, they always put up consistent numbers. These are guys of the “.285/25/90/90 club.” This club is made up of players that have been in the league for a while, but always hit for at least a .285 batting average, 25 home runs, 90 RBIs, and 90 runs scored. These are players that cannot be passed on if the chance to draft them presents itself. The best players of the club are Aramis Ramirez, Prince Fielder, Matt Holliday, Carlos Beltran, Andre Ethier, Nick Markakis, Billy Butler, Yadier Molina, Brian McCann, Troy Tulowitzki, David Wright, David Freese, Brandon Phillips, Paul Konerko, Robinson Cano, Albert Pujols, Matt Kemp, Ryan Braun, Josh Hamilton, Justin Upton, Adam Jones, Shin-Soo Choo, Adrian Gonzalez, Allen Craig and Victor Martinez.
Final Thoughts: Watch for Carl Crawford to settle in nicely at the top of the Dodgers order. He’s finally healthy again and could possibly be in store for a 25/25 season. Jose Reyes has been declining in his last three years. His average, run production, stolen bases and home run totals have decreased annually since 2010. If he can’t figure it out at the top of that incredible order in Toronto, he may officially be counted out as a top 5 shortstop in the game. Bryce Harper had 12 home runs in his final 90 at bats last year, and hit 2 in opening day 2013. I predict Harper will hit 40 homers this year and steal 30 bases en route to the National League MVP award.
How’s this for a bold prediction? The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox find themselves in 4th and 5th place in the AL east come the end of September, and neither team makes the playoffs for the first time since 1993. Mike Trout is just too good, but can he possibly avoid the imminent “sophomore slump?” Nope, I think his line looks like .270/15/70/100/35 at the end of the year. Tim Lincecum will make his last appearance as a starting pitcher in 2013. His velocity has declined far too much for his off-speed pitches to be effective, and last year he was actually efficient as a reliever for the Giants in their World Series playoff run. I think he’s officially a reliever by mid-July.
And in close, I think the Phillies are led by offseason free agent pickup Michael Young to a wildcard spot in the NL playoff picture—the Nationals win the NL East—and go on to face the Baltimore Orioles in the World Series. Happy April everyone! Baseball is finally among us.

By John Iezzi

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