The season is starting. Yahoo! Fantasy Baseball is sponsoring LSB. So we are going to do an overview of the Rangers from a fantasy perspective.
Elite position players -- Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus, Ian Kinsler
One of the nice things about Ranger hitters, from a fantasy perspective, is that they play half their games at one of the most hitter-friendly parks in the A.L. As a result, even if a Ranger isn't having a great year from a park-adjusted standpoint, his raw numbers are still going to help you in fantasy.
Beltre, Andrus and Kinsler are all slam-dunk picks to go early in a draft. Beltre had his third straight dominant offensive season in 2012, providing value in every traditional fantasy category except stolen bases. Given that he's heading for his mid-30s, you have to figure Beltre will regress some, but even a regressed Beltre is a great fantasy option at third base. Yahoo! has him ranked as the #2 overall third baseman, trailing only Miguel Cabrera, and the #17 player overall in their fantasy rankings. I don't know that Beltre is definitely the #2 third baseman for 2012 -- David Wright, Evan Longoria and Ryan Zimmerman all have legitimate cases for why they might be selected ahead of Beltre -- but nevertheless, Beltre is probably the Rangers' best fantasy option in 2013.
Kinsler is coming off a disappointing offensive season, but even in a down year for him, he provided fantasy value, and is worth taking high in a fantasy draft in 2013. Kinsler isn't going to hit for a high average, but as a leadoff hitter, he's likely going to give you 100 runs scored, while also contributing home runs and stolen bases. If Kinsler has a bounce-back season, he could rival Robinson Cano and Dustin Pedroia as the best fantasy second baseman. But even on the heels of his down 2012 year, Yahoo! has him ranked #3 among second basemen and #28 overall, both because second base is not a big offensive position and because the homers and steals make him a valuable fantasy commodity.
Andrus doesn't rank as highly as his infield teammates, but he's still an upper-echelon fantasy option at shortstop. Andrus isn't going to give you homers, but he's going to steal bases, score runs, and hit for a solid average for a shortstop. Yahoo! has him 7th among shortstops and #76 overall, but I think Elvis could be poised to take a leap offensively in 2013, and if he does, those will both be much too low for him.
Other position players worth drafting -- Leonys Martin, A.J. Pierzynski
Yahoo! has Leonys Martin ranked #265 overall in their rankings, which I think slots Martin too low in terms of fantasy value. Leonys should get at least 450-500 plate appearances, his bat is considered major league ready, and he'll pick up steals. Yahoo! ranks him remarkably low among centerfielders -- 33rd, behind guys like Emilio Bonifacio, Lorenzo Cain, Drew Stubbs, Ichiro, Colby Rasmus and Shane Victorino. I think Yahoo! is underestimating how much and how well Leonys will play, and while he's not someone you use a premium pick on, he's definitely someone to grab in the later rounds, particularly if you are in a league that uses LF/CF/RF designations, rather than just OF.
A.J. Pierzynski is someone you draft because he's a catcher, he'll play regularly, and he'll hit home runs. He's not in the upper echelon of catchers, someone worth grabbing in the early rounds, but if you miss out on a Buster Posey or a Victor Martinez, and are filling out your roster in the later rounds, Pierzynski is worth snagging. He's not likely to repeat his remarkable 2012 season, and he's not going to hit for a big average, but he'll provide you with some homers and RBIs. Yahoo! has him at 13th overall among catchers and 182 overall, which doesn't seem unreasonable.
Position players worth taking a late-round flyer on -- Nelson Cruz, David Murphy, Mitch Moreland
Cruz, Murphy and Moreland are all guys that I wouldn't rank real highly, but who all have upside potential and are worth considering towards the end of your draft.
Cruz is ranked #14 among RFs and #104 overall by Yahoo!, and I think they may be slotting him too high. He's had a couple of real nice fantasy seasons, but his power has dropped and he's not stealing many bases anymore. He's also not going to give you much value in terms of batting average, and there's the risk that he'll miss significant time either due to an injury or a suspension because of the Biogenesis investigation. If he stays healthy and unsuspended, he has the potential to give you a bounceback year that could feature a lot of homers and RBIs, but he's not someone I'd want to count on in a fantasy league.
Murphy, on the other hand, is ranked #35 among RFs, #36 among LFs and #251 overall by Yahoo!, which is probably too low. Among those ranked ahead of Murphy are Lorenzo Cain, Mike Morse (who is, of course, playing half his games in Seattle), Wil Myers (who is starting the season in the minors), Cody Ross, Corey Hart (who is out for the first 6-8 weeks of the season), and Chris Davis. Murphy is, like Cruz, someone I'd be leery of taking until the back end of the draft, because he'll either be limited in his plate appearances, or else he'll be facing lefties a lot, which will drive his rate stats down. Murphy doesn't steal bases or hit a lot of homers, which limits his fantasy value, but he is supposedly going to get a chance to play every day, and if he does, he's a decent value pick towards the end of the draft who won't hurt your team.
Yahoo! seems to have a real bone to pick with Moreland. Moreland is ranked #51 among first basemen, and #516 overall. Among those who are ranked ahead of Moreland in the first base rankings are Carlos Lee, who I am pretty sure doesn't have a team; Chris Parmalee, who I don't think is real; Adam Lind, who had one good year in 2009 and otherwise has been terrible; Chris Carter, who is going to be on the short side of a platoon in Houston; Jeff Keppinger, who is basically a utility infielder; and Justin Smoak, who is Justin Smoak. Moreland is, like Murphy, supposedly going to get a chance to play every day, and he's got people who follow the Rangers saying he's poised for a big year. Again, I wouldn't use a pick on Moreland until the back end of the draft, but he has more value than Yahoo! is crediting him with, and even if he doesn't have a breakout year, he's got upside with 20+ home run potential plus RBIs and a decent average.
Wild Card -- Lance Berkman
Lance Berkman qualifies in Yahoo! as a 1B, and is supposed to be the Rangers' regular DH. If Berkman is healthy, he could put up monster numbers, particularly playing half his time in RBIA. Or he could be hurt and miss tons of time. Or he could be done. It wouldn't surprise me if Berkman ended up the season being a top 25 caliber option in fantasy, and it wouldn't surprise me if he ended up having no fantasy value. If you're looking for a high-risk, high-reward option in the 5th through 8th rounds, Berkman is your guy.
The Valuable Fantasy Pitchers -- Yu Darvish, Joe Nathan
Yu Darvish is Yu Darvish. You want him on your fantasy team because he's Yu Darvish, and he's awesome, and if you have Yu Darvish on your team, it means you're awesome. Darvish will log innings, and will have a great ERA, and will strike out batters, and will win games. He'll do all the stuff great fantasy starters are supposed to do. Go get him.
Joe Nathan is a closer. He's a closer on a team that is going to win a lot of games, and he pitches for a manager who thinks your closer is the guy who is supposed to get all the saves. He was really good last year, and he's a safe bet to be really good this year and pick up a lot of saves. Or he could get hurt or start to not be good, because he's in his late 30s. Overall, though, he's a solid bet.
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