While it is important to keep your eye on the breakouts, busts and up-and-coming option during the early part of the season, it is also imperative to take stock in your elite options every now and again. We are going to break today from our position-by-position tiered rankings to take a look at the top-10 talents in fantasy baseball for the rest of the 2013 season. The rankings are can be considered a cheat sheet of shorts for if you were drafting today for the rest of the season. Early returns are certainly considered, but we are focused on what these guys will do and not necessarily what they have done.
Many owners view the options on this list as “untouchable” in most trades, but as a guy who recently shipped Carlos Gonzalez for a package of Clayton Kershaw and Austin Jackson, I can tell you that there is certainly moves to make to improve your team when wheeling and dealing these top talents. Obviously, you want all of these guys, but here’s how the elite fantasy commodities shake out for us after the first 2.5 months of the 2013 season.
1. Mike Trout (LAA) – .297 BA, 47 R, 12 HR, 42 RBI, 14 SB
Bretsky’s Preseason Rank (Change): 2 (+1)
Trout is striking out less (18.4 K% compared to 21.8 K% last year) and has bumped his ISO slugging up to an awesome .253. Despite his sluggish start, the Angel in the outfield is on pace for a ridiculous .297-116-30-104-35 encore performance. Trout gets the slight edge over Cabrera due to his five-category contributions, but I can’t argue with you if you’d rather have Miggy the rest of the way.
2. Miguel Cabrera (DET) – .358 BA, 51 R, 18 HR, 69 RBI, 0 SB
Bretsky’s Preseason Rank (Change): 3 (+1)
Miggy entered play on June 13 of last season with a modest .314/.370/.534 slash line, 34 runs scored, 13 homers and 51 RBI–truly pedestrian numbers when you consider his performance so far in 2013! That’s right, Cabrera is on pace to top his Triple Crown season from last year and fantasy owners will continue to reap the rewards. Over his past 162 games, Cabrera has blasted 49 home runs, scored 126 times and driven in 157 RBI… simply amazing.
3. Carlos Gonzalez (COL) – .299 BA, 52 R, 18 HR, 52 RBI, 12 SB
Bretsky’s Preseason Rank (Change): 4 (+1)
CarGo sat higher on our preseason draft board than most and he certainly isn’t slipping following a torrid start to the season. Over his first 64 games, 18 home runs and 12 steals have Carlos pacing toward his first 30/30 season and if he stays healthy, our money is on CarGo to join that exclusive club. The scary part? Gonzlaez is currently batting .348/.414/.696 on the road with 11 of his 18 home runs coming away from Coors Field. For a guy with a career .992 OPS in Colorado vs. a .772 number when playing out of a suitcase, his improvements on the road are particularly encouraging. Expect CarGo to pick up the pace at home and to continue his monstrous run in 2013.
4. Joey Votto (CIN) – .323 BA, 52 R, 11 HR, 31 RBI, 2 SB
Bretsky’s Preseason Rank (Change): 9 (+5)
An absurd eye at the dish has Votto getting on-base at an league-best .440 clip through 302 plate appearances this season. He’s drawn 50 walks against 58 strikeouts in his first 66 games this year, and has also began to pick up the power pace lately as well. Joey has knocked seven of his 11 home runs since May 17 while scoring 23 runs in 25 games over that span. Behind Cabrera, there is not a more bankable average/on-base threat in the league than Joey Votto.
5. Clayton Kershaw (LAD) – 100.1 IP, 5 W, 1.88 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 96 K, 28 BB
Bretsky’s Preseason Rank (Change): 14 (+9)
Kershaw is the only arm to make our top-10 despite the fact that he’s currently just the No. 7 starting pitcher on ESPN’s player rater. Now, a bunch of that is tied up his his somewhat disappointing win total, but we can’t really knock Clayton for that, can we? Just earlier this week, Kershaw allowed one run over a dominating 7.0-inning performance only to watch Brandon League come in to blow the game and rob the lefty of his sixth win. Wins aside, Kershaw currently ranks among the top-10 qualified starting pitchers in ERA, WHIP, strikeouts and innings pitched, delivering just about everything you could ask for from a fantasy ace. His strikeout rate has been down a touch this season and he’s stuck out exactly five batter in four of his last five starts, but when a guy puts up a 2.75 ERA over his “down” stretch, there is little reason to worry.
6. Adam Jones (BAL) – .301 BA, 47 R, 14 HR, 45 RBI, 9 SB
Bretsky’s Preseason Rank (Change): 44 (+37)
Since the start of the 2012 season, Adam Jones ranks 4th among outfielders in home runs (46), 3rd in runs scored (150), 13th in RBI (127) and 20th in stolen bases (25). That’s five category gold when you factor a steady .291 batting average and there is little question at this point whether or not Jones belongs on this list. He makes the biggest jump of any player in the top tier, rising 37 spots from his preseason ranking. While we’d love to see Jones take a few more walks out there, it’s impossible to complain about the production on the field. Jones’ surrounding lineup gives him the nod over the next man on this list and with the way the Baltimore lineup is hitting, Adam should have no trouble posting career-best run and RBI totals while giving you 30 homers and 15+ steals this season.
7. Andrew McCutchen (PIT) – .297 BA, 42 R, 7 HR, 33 RBI, 15 SB
Bretsky’s Preseason Rank (Change): 10 (+2)
McCutch has bounced back from his slow finish to the 2012 season with strong numbers across the board. The power is down, but the speed is up and while McCutchen is drawing fewer walks this season, is also striking out a lot less. His peripheral numbers actually look more similar to the player who popped 16 home runs and stole 33 bases back in 2010 rather than the 33 homer, 20 steal guy we saw least season. Still, by hook or by crook, McCutchen is returning elite level fantasy value and remains well on pace to his third straight 20/20 season.
8. Robinson Cano (NYY) – .277 BA, 33 R, 15 HR, 40 RBI, 3 SB
Bretsky’s Preseason Rank (Change): 5 (-3)
Cano slips back a bit in our rankings because despite bringing awesome power and run production to the second base position, his numbers across the board have dipped slightly. A good part of his diminished batting average can be blamed on the .282 BABIP that Robby is currently sporting, almost 40 points below his .320 career mark. It’s also notable that Cano is a career .320 hitter in the second half, compared to “just” .296 before the all-star break, giving reason to believe that his best work is still to come. He and Tulowitzki both make our top-10 as much for their elite stats as they do for the scarcity at their positions and we’ll give Cano the slight edge as fantasy’s best middle infielder due to his ability to stay on the field more consistently.
9. Troy Tulowitzki (COL) – .347 BA, 40 R, 16 HR, 51 RBI, 0 SB
Bretsky’s Preseason Rank (Change): 12 (+3)
Of course the health is always going to remain a question… how could it not? But in reality, are any of the guys on this list safe from the injury imp? Tulo is proving once again that he is the class of the shortstop position and is actually on pace to set career bests in runs scored, home runs and RBI. His ISO slugging is up to an unreal .292 on the year all while playing a premium defensive position. Really, the only issue you can have with the guy is that he’s yet to attempt a stolen base this year, but in all honesty, for someone who has struggled with lower body injuries–including a groin issue that cost him 115 games last year–we don’t mind Tulo taking it a bit easier on the base paths if it means he’ll reach the 150 games played mark for the first time since 2009.
10. Ryan Braun (MIL) – .304 BA, 30 R, 9 HR, 36 RBI, 4 SB
Bretsky’s Preseason Rank (Change): 1 (-9)
It’s not the fear of an impending suspension that has dropped Braun on this list, but much more a combination of risks that have suddenly made fantasy’s most consistent bat over the last half a decade now seem like something of an unknown commodity. Braun is currently nursing a nagging thumb injury that is reportedly not improving and he may very well require a stint on the disabled list. It’s not difficult to conclude that the thumb has been hampering Braun at the plate of late, as he has not hit a home run since May 22 and is batting just .254 in 16 games since that date. His lack of efficiency on the base paths (4-for-9 in stolen base attempts) also has us worried that he may fail to get back to the 30-steal mark he has hit in each of the past two season. Prior to the 2010 season, Braun consistently brought double-digit steals to the table, averaging 16 swipes a year over his first four season. After making the leap to a 30/30 player in 2011-12, it really cannot qualify as shocking to see him slip back a bit in that category. Braun remains an elite level option and his upside as one of the three best players in the game keeps him inside our top-10 in mid-June, but the risks are beginning to pile up and at this time, there’s just nine “safer” options in our eyes.
Dropped out: Matt Kemp, Prince Fielder
Just missed: Jose Bautista, Evan Longoria, Prince Fielder