The real life All-Star rosters were announced over the weekend, which means it is a great time for us to look at the 2012 Fantasy All-Stars to date. Some things that will be taken into account include: the ESPN Player Rater, Fangraphs leaderboards, average draft position, and my own personal expert (just kidding) analysis. So, without further ado, I present to you the 2012 mid-season fantasy baseball All-Stars for the American League.
Real-life pick: Mike Napoli
Player Rater pick: A.J. Pierzynski
Fangraphs Leaderboard: Joe Mauer
My pick: A.J. Pierzynski
For me, this was a pretty easy decision. While Mauer has certainly had a bounce back year and Matt Wieters has been solid aside from a putrid May, if you are looking at production across the board, Pierzynski has seperated himself from the pack. The 35-year-old catcher has become a power hitter in 2012, with his 14 dingers to date only 4 shy of the career high 18 home runs he hit in 2005. His power spike is evidenced by a ridiculous increase in both his ISO and his HR/FB numbers. In 2012 his ISO of .231 not only ranks 12th in the American League, but it is nearly 100 points higher than his career mark of .142. His HR/FB ratio of 20.3% is more than double his career mark of 8.9%. I have no idea if the power spike is sustainable, but Pierzynski deserves recognition for the awesome first half he has had.
Real-life pick: Prince Fielder
Player Rater pick: Edwin Encarnacion
Fangraphs Leaderboard: Edwin Encarnacion
My pick: Edwin Encarnacion
This was a very tough decision for me because Paul Konerko has been so good and Encarnacion has only played 31 games at first base this year. But the Blue Jays slugger had to be on my list somewhere, and he did so at the expense of Konerko’s excellent first half. Sorry White Sox fans. Basically, Encarnacion is in the midst of a career year in every sense of the word: he has already set a career high in home runs and is on pace to set career highs in plate appearances, hits, RBI, steals, and walks. His wOBA (weighted on base average) of .397 is 8th in American League. He is also in the top 10 in home runs, RBI, ISO, SLG, and wRC+ (weighted runs created plus). In a word, Encarnacion has been incredible.
Real-life pick: Robinson Cano
Player Rater pick: Jason Kipnis
Fangraphs Leaderboard: Robinson Cano
My pick: Jason Kipnis
Another tough decision here, but what may have swayed me is the average draft position: while Cano’s ADP was 7.6, Kipnis’ was 183.3. Cano’s power numbers are undoubtedly more impressive and he would be a deserving selection, but with the value Kipnis owners are getting based on expectations, I had to give him the nod. Another thing that separates Kipnis has been speed. His 19 steals are good for second in the American League behind only Mike Trout. When you pair that type of speed with possible 20-25 home run power, you get a player that is incredibly valuable for fantasy purposes. His overall line of .275/.335/.426 is nothing to scoff at either. It looks like Kipnis has crashed the elite second basemen party, at least for the first half of 2012, and he deserves to be recognized.
Real-life pick: Adrian Beltre
Player Rater pick: Edwin Encarnacion
Fangraphs Leaderboard: Brett Lawrie
My pick: Miguel Cabrera
This was an incredibly tough choice. If fantasy leagues had a way to quantify and score defensive contributions, the easy answer would be Beltre. But the reality is that defense does not count here, which means I am giving the nod to Cabrera. One big question coming into the season was whether Cabrera would stay healthy playing a more demanding position. He did nothing to ease the minds of fantasy owners after he took a ball off of the face in Spring Training, but he has been out there every day for the Tigers, doing what he always does. According to his standards, this has actually been a bit of a down year, especially when it comes to getting on base. His walk rate of 8.4% is way down from his 15.7% mark last year, likely due to the addition of Prince Fielder in the Tigers lineup. But when .315/.376/.541 with 16 HR and 62 RBI is a down year, you are looking a potential Hall of Famer.
Real-life pick: Derek Jeter
Player Rater pick: Elvis Andrus
Fangraphs Leaderboard: Elvis Andrus
My pick: Elvis Andrus
I understand why the fans picked Jeter — he has had an excellent year and he is Derek Jeter — but for fantasy purposes he does little for owners outside of average. With Andrus, we are seeing the maturation of young hitter, particularly with his ability to get on base. The key for base stealers, of course, is maintaining a high OBP. Andrus has improved in this area every year of his career and this year he is getting on base at a .381 clip. Though he will never be a source of power, that high OBP means increased chances to steal and to score runs in that high-octane Ranger offense. To me, Andrus is clearly the best shortstop in the American League at this point and not too long from now everyone will start to see that.
With all due respect to Granderson, Jones, and surprise contenders Mark Trumbo and Josh Reddick, they come up just short for me. The great thing about the three players that I selected is that they have all had a month in which they went absolutely bonkers. Trout’s big month is fresh in our memories, as the 20-year-old hit .372/.419/.531 with 14 steals in June. Bautista also had an insane month of June, going for a .271/.408/.750 mark with 14 home runs. For Hamilton, his big month came in May (though you could argue March/April) when he hit .344/.405/.781 with 12 home runs. All three guys have carried fantasy rosters for an extended period of time, which is not something that you can say about too many players. They are also your respective AL leaders in home runs (Bautista – 26), RBI (Hamilton – 73), and steals (Trout – 22). A pretty impressive group to say the least.
Real-life pick: David Ortiz
My pick: David Ortiz
The Player Rater does not have a category for DH-only players and the Fangraphs Leaderboard includes guys like Joe Mauer, so I skipped them here. Besides, this is a pretty easy choice anyway. As much as I love the seasons that Adam Dunn and Billy Butler are having, Ortiz is the clear choice here. He seems to have slimmed down noticeably and as a result he is having perhaps his best season since 2007. He ranks 2nd in the AL in runs (57), 4th in OBP (.397), 6th in home runs (21), 7th in RBI (53), and 12th in average (.305). Ortiz has been a stud across the board this year and ranks 14th overall on the Player Rater, which is a great value consider his ADP was 74.9. What a year it has been for the 36-year-old.