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Al Melchior's 2013 Rankings Snapshot

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Editor's Note: We will be providing owners three unique points of view by position this offseason. Our Scott White, Al Melchior and Nando Di Fino will each be sharing their initial views on the 2013 Fantasy Baseball season by position. Teams listed are either a player's current team or the team they ended 2012 on.

Catcher

A year ago, I thought Carlos Santana was the cream of the catching crop, and even though he took a step backward in 2012, I haven't changed my mind on the matter. Even if he doesn't hit for average, Santana can outproduce the field, thanks to his ability to hit for power and draw walks. I also like Mike Napoli's and Brian McCann's chances for comeback seasons. Napoli has never been a great contact hitter, but his strikeout binge was out of line with his career norms and he should make more frequent contact next season. McCann's decline in doubles power is a bit concerning, but now knowing that his shoulder issues could bear part of the blame, it's reasonable to expect a healthy McCann to put up near-elite numbers, even if he misses roughly a month of the season as he recovers from surgery.

It's not clear where all that power came from for Jonathan Lucroy and A.J. Pierzynski in 2012, but it's unlikely they can provide a repeat performance. It's particularly dubious for Pierzynski, who is in his mid- thirties. While the trend is more believable for Lucroy, the increase from his prior numbers -- including those from the minors -- looks a little too good to be true. Carlos Ruiz's breakthrough season also prompted some disbelief, and now that he will be serving a 25-game suspension for testing positive for amphetamines, Chooch barely scooches into the top 20.

Editor's note: Victor Martinez's eligibility in CBSSports.com Fantasy Baseball leagues in 2013 will be as a designated hitter and will not include catcher. However, if you're using our rankings to prepare for drafts where Martinez might be eligible at catcher, he would be the No. 5 catcher in my rankings.

Al's 2013 Catcher Rankings
2012 Roto
Rank
2012 H2H
Rank
2012 Roto
Rank
2012 H2H
Rank
1. Carlos Santana, Indians 9 4 11. Alex Avila, Tigers 21 20
2. Buster Posey, Giants 1 1 12. Jesus Montero, Mariners 15 15
3. Mike Napoli, Red Sox 12 17 13. Jonathan Lucroy, Brewers 11 16
4. Joe Mauer, Twins 3 2 14. Ryan Doumit, Twins 10 9
5. Matt Wieters, Orioles 8 5 15. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Red Sox 13 19
6. Brian McCann, Braves 14 12 16. A.J. Pierzynski, Rangers 7 7
7. Yadier Molina, Cardinals 2 3 17. Russell Martin, Pirates 16 13
8. Miguel Montero, Diamondbacks 7 6 18. Carlos Ruiz, Phillies 6 8
9. Wilin Rosario, Rockies 5 10 19. Wilson Ramos, Nationals 56 63
10. Salvador Perez, Royals 20 21 20. Mike Zunino, Mariners N/A N/A

First Base

It should be a tight race for top Fantasy first baseman, with Joey Votto, Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols all in the running. Despite a disappointing tenure in Boston, Adrian Gonzalez might not be too far behind. He hit with more power in the second half of last season and he is just one year removed from a .338/.410/.548 slash line. After three years of a declining batting average, owners may have soured on Mark Teixeira, but this season he moderated the flyball tendencies that had been leading to an increase in outs. Look for Tex to get rewarded more often for his change in approach, should he stick with it.

Of 2012's most productive first basemen, the only one omitted from this list is Adam LaRoche. His 33 home runs were a career high, but his track record suggests that totals in the mid-20s are what we should expect going forward. That change, along with a drop in run production, is enough to just drop him out of the top 20 for next year.

Al's 2013 First Base Rankings
2012 Roto
Rank
2012 H2H
Rank
2012 Roto
Rank
2012 H2H
Rank
1. Albert Pujols, Angels 4 4 11. Freddie Freeman, Braves 15 12
2. Joey Votto, Reds 21 19 12. Allen Craig, Cardinals 11 16
3. Prince Fielder, Tigers 3 3 13. Paul Konerko, White Sox 18 15
4. Adrian Gonzalez, Dodgers 10 7 14. Mike Napoli, Rangers 39 37
5. Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays 2 2 15. Ike Davis, Mets 22 20
6. Billy Butler, Royals 6 5 16. Joe Mauer, Twins 12 8
7. Carlos Santana, Indians 26 17 17. Corey Hart, Brewers 8 10
8. Mark Teixeira, Yankees 23 20 18. Nick Swisher, Indians 17 14
9. Buster Posey, Giants 5 6 19. Adam Dunn, White Sox 16 13
10. Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks 7 11 20. Anthony Rizzo, Cubs 40 49

Second Base

The top four second basemen are all very good and all are worth drafting within the first few rounds. That's because the options from No. 5 on this list on down are far from enticing. Aaron Hill was a Fantasy stud in 2012, but his wild year-to-year inconsistency makes him difficult to trust with an early round pick. If you're counting on the twin "U"s -- Dan Uggla and Chase Utley -- to return to prominence, you could be left with buyer's remorse. Uggla's home run power, which had been his most reliable asset, betrayed him and at this point in his career, Utley is both an injury and a performance risk.

One second baseman who could eventually join the top ranks is Jose Altuve, though it may not happen in 2013. He has already shown he can provide steals, runs and a high batting average and he could add power to that equation. Though he is all of 5-foot-5, his resume includes 25 home runs in 212 games over his last two seasons in the minors.

Al's 2013 Second Base Rankings
2012 Roto
Rank
2012 H2H
Rank
2012 Roto
Rank
2012 H2H
Rank
1. Robinson Cano, Yankees 1 1 11. Chase Utley, Phillies 22 27
2. Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox 6 7 12. Dustin Ackley, Mariners 17 18
3. Ian Kinsler, Rangers 3 3 13. Danny Espinosa, Nationals 10 14
4. Ben Zobrist, Rays 7 4 14. Neil Walker, Pirates 14 20
5. Aaron Hill, Diamondbacks 2 2 15. Howard Kendrick, Angels 13 19
6. Brandon Phillips, Reds 5 9 16. Daniel Murphy, Mets 15 17
7. Jason Kipnis, Indians 4 6 17. Marco Scutaro, Giants 8 8
8. Jose Altuve, Astros 9 12 18. Omar Infante, Tigers 12 13
9. Dan Uggla, Braves 16 13 19. Kelly Johnson, Blue Jays 18 20
10. Rickie Weeks, Brewers 11 11 20. Mark Ellis, Dodgers 26 25

Third Base

Some may look at the emergence of Chase Headley with skepticism, but the question owners should be asking is, "How come we didn't see his power sooner?". Headley collected plenty of extra-base hits, including homers, in the upper minors, even though he didn't play for teams with good hitters' parks. He should be a top option at the position yet again in 2013. David Freese has a similar minor league resume, but we have yet to see him put up big power numbers at the big league level. He could be next season's Headley, albeit with fewer steals.

After letting owners down in his sophomore season, Brett Lawrie might look like a draft-day bargain heading into his third year. While he could turn things around, the fact that his slump followed him for nearly the whole season is a source of concern, especially since he got into the habit of chasing pitches out of the strike zone. That wasn't a problem for Kevin Youkilis, but his injury-proneness and increasing ground ball rate make it difficult to view him as a top 10 option at the position.

Al's 2013 Third Base Rankings
2012 Roto
Rank
2012 H2H
Rank
2012 Roto
Rank
2012 H2H
Rank
1. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers 1 1 11. Brett Lawrie, Blue Jays 14 22
2. Evan Longoria, Rays 26 38 12. Todd Frazier, Reds 18 26
3. David Wright, Mets 6 6 13. Martin Prado, Braves 9 7
4. Adrian Beltre, Rangers 4 4 14. Will Middlebrooks, Red Sox 29 41
5. Aramis Ramirez, Brewers 5 5 15. Kevin Youkilis, Yankees 24 25
6. Chase Headley, Padres 3 3 16. Pedro Alvarez, Pirates 13 19
7. Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals 7 8 17. Kyle Seager, Mariners 11 11
8. Pablo Sandoval, Giants 22 30 18. Trevor Plouffe, Twins 25 23
9. Hanley Ramirez, Dodgers 8 9 19. Mike Moustakas, Royals 16 18
10. David Freese, Cardinals 10 13 20. Mark Reynolds, Indians 23 30

Shortstop

Ian Desmond was due for a breakout and he provided one in 2012, but can owners expect a repeat? He never hit more than 13 home runs in a minor league season, so his 25-homer output may defy belief, but Desmond greatly increased the distance on his long balls, so the power surge appears to be legitimate. With Troy Tulowitzki set to return from his groin injury, Josh Rutledge doesn't figure to play much shortstop, but he's a worthwhile pick at the position, since he will be eligible there while getting regular at-bats at second base. He is not a particularly patient hitter, but his combination of speed and power should continue to play well at Coors Field.

Derek Jeter gave owners a surprisingly robust season in 2012, but he built the bulk of his value over two hot months (April and August). Meanwhile, his ground ball and walk rates continued to move in the wrong directions, so chances are high that Jeter will offer owners little besides an empty .300 average and runs next season. Those expecting Alcides Escobar to remain a top 12 shortstop could be due for some frustration. His batting average may have jumped 39 points, which in turn created more stolen base opportunities, but skillwise, he was the same player as the year before. He still didn't hit for power or walk, and in fact, he struck out more often than in prior years. Escobar did get more hits on balls in play, but those rates typically vary from year to year, so without some actual skill growth, 2013 looks like a "down" year for him.

Al's 2013 Shortstop Rankings
2012 Roto
Rank
2012 H2H
Rank
2012 Roto
Rank
2012 H2H
Rank
1. Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies 37 51 11. Derek Jeter, Yankees 6 5
2. Jose Reyes, Blue Jays 1 1 12. Erick Aybar, Angels 14 16
3. Ben Zobrist, Rays 7 3 13. Zack Cozart, Reds 20 20
4. Hanley Ramirez, Dodgers 4 6 14. J.J. Hardy, Orioles 15 12
5. Ian Desmond, Nationals 3 10 15. Danny Espinosa, Nationals 11 14
6. Asdrubal Cabrera, Indians 12 13 16. Andrelton Simmons, Braves 53 45
7. Starlin Castro, Cubs 5 7 17. Stephen Drew, Red Sox 46 41
8. Jimmy Rollins, Phillies 2 2 18. Alcides Escobar, Royals 8 11
9. Josh Rutledge, Rockies 27 31 19. Jed Lowrie, Astros 25 25
10. Elvis Andrus, Rangers 10 9 20. Jhonny Peralta, Tigers 21 16

Outfield

A year ago, I labeled Alex Gordon a bust, but back-to-back years with a .290-plus average and 45-plus doubles can't be ignored. He has basically turned into Nick Markakis but with more run production. In other words, he has become a valuable Fantasy outfielder. The only thing that prevented Yoenis Cespedes from being a top producer was a variety of injuries that limited him to 129 games. In the time that he did play, Cespedes showed that he can do everything well: hit for power and average, drive in runs and steal bases. While he's not quite at the elite level, you could do worse for a No. 1 outfielder in standard mixed leagues.

Just missing the cutoff for this list were Mark Trumbo and Desmond Jennings. Trumbo provided a good case study of why it's best to see a full season's worth of data before assuming a player has changed his game in a lasting way. Early in 2012, Trumbo looked like he was a choosier hitter, but he reverted back to his impatient ways as the season wore on. His power is indisputable, but without a higher batting average or on-base percentage Trumbo doesn't quite have what it takes to make the top 40. Until Jennings can show the power he put on display as a rookie wasn't a fluke, he will fall a little bit short, too.

Al's 2013 Outfield Rankings
2012 Roto
Rank
2012 H2H
Rank
2012 Roto
Rank
2012 H2H
Rank
1. Ryan Braun, Brewers 2 1 21. Michael Bourn, Braves 12 20
2. Mike Trout, Angels 1 2 22. Allen Craig, Cardinals 28 39
3. Jose Bautista, Blue Jays 57 62 23. Bryce Harper, Nationals 26 29
4. Matt Kemp, Dodgers 38 51 24. Adam Jones, Orioles 6 5
5. Andrew McCutchen, Pirates 3 3 25. Nick Markakis, Orioles 70 68
6. Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins 15 35 26. Alex Rios, White Sox 5 6
7. Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies 7 16 27. Corey Hart, Brewers 22 23
8. Josh Hamilton, Rangers 4 4 28. Austin Jackson, Tigers 19 26
9. Curtis Granderson, Yankees 8 8 29. Nick Swisher, Indians 42 33
10. Matt Holliday, Cardinals 9 7 30. Nelson Cruz, Rangers 35 27
11. Jay Bruce, Reds 16 11 31. Shane Victorino, Red Sox 40 25
12. Ben Zobrist, Rays 34 9 32. Angel Pagan, Giants 23 23
13. Alex Gordon, Royals 30 12 33. Josh Reddick, Athletics 29 21
14. Yoenis Cespedes, Athletics 20 34 34. Josh Willingham, Twins 14 10
15. Jason Heyward, Braves 10 15 35. Martin Prado, Braves 31 13
16. Justin Upton, Diamondbacks 17 23 36. Andre Ethier, Dodgers 41 36
17. Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox 95 111 37. Dexter Fowler, Rockies 53 52
18. Melky Cabrera, Blue Jays 25 40 38. Hunter Pence, Giants 33 22
19. Shin-Soo Choo, Reds 24 29 39. Michael Morse, Nationals 68 83
20. Carlos Beltran, Cardinals 11 18 40. B.J. Upton, Braves 13 31

Starting Pitcher

The top 20 includes so many pitchers who have proven themselves to be ace-quality stoppers, it would be easy to underestimate a relative newbie like Chris Sale. However, he finished in top 12 for both ERA and strikeout rate and he was also among the majors' most consistent starters. Though he finished on the slow side, his command remained sharp throughout the entire season. At age 24 on opening day, Sale could get even better in 2013. Owners may also sell Adam Wainwright short after he posted a 3.94 ERA upon his return from Tommy John surgery, but his skill stats were as good as ever. Wainwright simply allowed a high percentage of the runners he did allow on base to score, but over the course of his career, that has rarely been a problem. He's a strong rebound candidate if there ever was one.

Jon Lester has similar problems with stranding runners, but unfortunately for him, his troubles didn't end there. For the second year in a row, his strikeouts per nine innings ratio dropped by more than a full strikeout. In related news, Lester got fewer swings and misses on his curveball, according to PitchFX data on Brooksbaseball.net. Those counting on a Lester comeback will have to hope that his curveball becomes a strikeout pitch once again. Owners should also be cautious when approaching Jordan Zimmermann. Though he was a top 30 pitcher this season, his overall stats were enhanced by a strong first half in which he registered a 2.61 ERA. Then he ceased getting ground balls. If that trend persists, he will have a difficult time cracking the top 40, and accordingly, he just misses making this list.

Al's 2013 Starting Pitcher Rankings
2012 Roto
Rank
2012 H2H
Rank
2012 Roto
Rank
2012 H2H
Rank
1. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers 4 4 21. Yu Darvish, Rangers 27 28
2. Justin Verlander, Tigers 2 2 22. James Shields, Royals 16 12
3. David Price, Rays 3 3 23. Mat Latos, Reds 26 14
4. Felix Hernandez, Mariners 14 10 24. Josh Johnson, Blue Jays 84 56
5. Cliff Lee, Phillies 36 23 25. C.J. Wilson, Angels 60 36
6. Zack Greinke, Dodgers 21 13 26. Matt Moore, Rays 71 63
7. Chris Sale, White Sox 12 15 27. Roy Halladay, Phillies 95 71
8. Matt Cain, Giants 6 5 28. Kris Medlen, Braves 23 39
9. Stephen Strasburg, Nationals 19 27 29. Ian Kennedy, Diamondbacks 43 33
10. Johnny Cueto, Reds 9 9 30. Dan Haren, Nationals 88 66
11. Gio Gonzalez, Nationals 5 7 31. Anibal Sanchez, Tigers 72 52
12. Cole Hamels, Phillies 7 6 32. Jeff Samardzija, Cubs 59 58
13. Adam Wainwright, Cardinals 40 35 33. Brandon Morrow, Blue Jays 46 81
14. Jered Weaver, Angels 8 11 34. Ryan Vogelsong, Giants 32 32
15. CC Sabathia, Yankees 18 16 35. Ryan Dempster, Rangers 43 42
16. R.A. Dickey, Blue Jays 1 1 36. Jon Lester, Red Sox 147 68
17. Max Scherzer, Tigers 20 21 37. A.J. Burnett, Pirates 29 24
18. Yovani Gallardo, Brewers 30 20 38. Jonathon Niese, Mets 38 30
19. Madison Bumgarner, Giants 15 17 39. Doug Fister, Tigers 61 64
20. Jake Peavy, White Sox 24 19 40. Mike Minor, Braves 64 53

Relief Pitcher

It's been awhile since Jonathan Papelbon was one of the very top producers in Fantasy, but despite that he should be one of the first relievers off the board. Consistency is rare among closers, so the best targets aren't necessarily the ones who performed the best the year before. Papelbon has notched 30 or more saves and struck out more than a batter per inning in seven consecutive seasons. Only once during that span did he finish with an ERA above 3.00. That's a tough record to beat. Hisashi Iwakuma doesn't have much of a major league track record yet, but he excelled as a starter in his first year in Seattle. He will still have reliever eligibility next year, so owners in leagues with RP spots will get all of those good starter innings without using an SP spot to get them.

I initially had omitted Jim Johnson from these rankings due to concerns over his low strikeout rate, but had second thoughts after realizing he more than compensates for that with an extremely high ground ball rate and low walk rate. Because he avoids home runs, hits on balls in play and walks, it's unfair to lump him in with other contact-pitching closers like Brandon League and Jonathan Broxton (yes, he's a contact pitcher now), and he does belong in the top 20. To make room for Johnson, I've jettisoned Joel Hanrahan, whose inconsistent ability to limit home runs and walks could get him into trouble now that he has left the roomy confines of PNC Park.

Al's 2013 Relief Pitcher Rankings
2012 Roto
Rank
2012 H2H
Rank
2012 Roto
Rank
2012 H2H
Rank
1. Kris Medlen, Braves 23 10 11. Chris Perez, Indians 76 26
2. Aroldis Chapman, Reds 11 5 12. Sergio Romo, Giants 81 96
3. Craig Kimbrel, Braves 10 3 13. Mariano Rivera, Yankees N/A N/A
4. Jonathan Papelbon, Phillies 28 9 14. Jim Johnson, Orioles 35 4
5. Fernando Rodney, Rays 13 1 15. Drew Storen, Nationals 232 N/A
6. Hisashi Iwakuma, Mariners 89 31 16. Ryan Madson, Angels DNP DNP
7. Joe Nathan, Rangers 42 11 17. Addison Reed, White Sox 99 24
8. J.J. Putz, Diamondbacks 74 24 18. John Axford, Brewers 60 15
9. Alexi Ogando, Rangers 99 24 19. Tom Wilhelmsen, Mariners 47 13
10. Jason Motte, Cardinals 25 6 20. Wade Davis, Royals 141 73

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Al Melchior at @almelccbs . You can also e- mail us at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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