First base is a virtual desert in the National League. Hard to argue with Joey Votto at fourth overall.
Let’s take a look at the current average draft position for the top 20 players in the National League.
NOTE: Some of these blurbs are copied or modified from the mixed-league top 20.
2012 NL Only 5×5: Overall Top 20
(Mock Draft Central current ADP as of Feb. 9)
1. Matt Kemp, OF, LAD: Kemp almost went 40-40 as a 26-year-old last year. Could he be better in 2012?
2. Troy Tulowitzki, SS, COL: There are four SSs in the NL top 20. Tulowitzki is the best fantasy SS in the game.
3. Justin Upton, OF, ARI: Remember what I said about Kemp? Upton is three years younger and had 31 homers and 21 steals last year.
4. Joey Votto, 1B, CIN: Truthfully, if you took Votto at No. 2 I’m going to nod at you and say, “well-played, sir.”
5. Roy Halladay, SP, PHI: I really don’t like taking pitchers early, but in -Only leagues, things get all jangled up. One thing to consider before taking Halladay. While he hasn’t shown signs of slowing down, he’ll be 35 on opening day.
6. Clayton Kershaw, SP, LAD: He’s only 24 so there might still be some growing pains, but he’s an ace-in-the-making.
7. Carlos Gonzalez, OF, COL: Terrific season but was destined to not live up to the expectations created by CarGo 2010. Expect a performance somewhere between 2011 and 2010.
8. Cliff Lee, SP, PHI: Don’t expect a repeat of his 2011 ERA or Ks, but he’s still one of the best pitchers in the game, with one of the league’s best teams behind him.
9. Jose Reyes, SS, MIA: This Reyes-Hanley Ramirez combo is going to strike fear in opposing pitchers…
10. *Hanley Ramirez, SS/3B, MIA: … In the 75 games they are both on the healthy list together.
11. Tim Lincecum, SP, SF: Just two years ago we were all fumbling over the question, “how early is too early to draft Tim Lincecum.” He reportedly did away with his amazing fast food feasting in the offseason and lost 25 pounds.
12. Ryan Braun, OF, MIL: Biggest risk-reward pick of the draft at this point. Could put up a 30-30 MVP season. Could miss 50 games.
13. Mike Stanton, OF, MIA: See sites projecting HUGE numbers for Stanton. Can’t say I disagree, especially with Reyes and HanRam in the lineup.
14. Andrew McCutchen, OF, PIT: Hit 23 homers and stole 23 bases last season. We can’t use last season as an exact predictor of success, but at age 25 on opening day he has time to cultivate and improve on that power-speed combo and his batting average (.259 last year).
15. Cole Hamels, SP, PHI: Another Phillies pitcher in the top-15? Why not. Hard to argue with statistics. Had end-of-year elbow and hernia surgery, but he is expected to be fine by March.
16. David Wright, 3B, NYM: Missed 60 games last year but still flashed that speed-power mix that had him flirting with top-3 overall status a few years ago. Projection-makers are not going all-in on him. I recommend you follow suit.
17. Matt Holliday, OF, STL: My biggest concern for all Cardinals players is the effect of Albert Pujols’ departure. Holliday will hit third or fourth, but will opponents pitch to him?
18. Jay Bruce, OF, CIN: One of the things I’ve done recently is gone back and looked at some top prospects lists from years past. Bruce is one of those players near the top of the list for a couple years. He’s also been in the league for five years already. However, he’s only 24 — he’ll be 25 on opening day — and has hit at least 21 homers in all four seasons. Last year he hit 32, the eighth-most in the NL.
19. Starlin Castro, SS, CHC: The off-field allegations appear to be going away, which is good news for fantasy owners. Castro appears on the verge of becoming one of the next great shortstops in the Major Leagues.
20. Hunter Pence, OF, PHI: Read some massive hate for Pence in a comment on a fantasy post. (Go figure. Hate on the Internet.) But Pence, who turns 29 April 13, is entering his most reliable seasons, according to Ron Shandler’s Baseball Forecaster. That means the skills we’ve send are pretty close to what we’re going to get. He might not be a .300 hitter, but he’s going to hit mid-20s homers and, if the Phillies let him run, could get back into the 18-20 steals range.
*Ramirez will start the season as SS and will have to be drafted that way in some leagues. He has agreed to move to 3B, letting Reyes handle the six-spot on the fielding chart.