Following in the international footsteps of the NFL, for the first time ever, Major League Baseball will open their season overseas. The Los Angeles Dodgers and the Arizona Diamondbacks will face off at the famous Sydney Cricket Grounds in New South Wales, Australia. While the Dodgers and the Diamondbacks kicked things off this weekend, the rest of the league will proceed with the traditional first pitch from American soil at the end of the month.
With the Major League Baseball season opener just days away, it’s time to consider the top players and prospects of the 2014 season. From the first February workouts to the flights to Florida and Arizona, the last six weeks have rejuvenated our appetite for n0-hitters, closers, run-downs and walk-offs. While spring training is only a warm-up to the season, the excitement of the return of America’s favorite pastime is back.
With a little taste of our old favorite players in our new favorite jerseys from Shin-Soo Choo and Prince Fielder together in Texas to Jacoby Ellsbury suiting up in pinstripes after a World Series in The Bean, baseball is back. So, with Spring Training nearing the end, fantasy baseball is gearing up and the window to draft these elite players is quickly closing. We’ve scoured players statistics and fantasy projections on MLB.com to dig into the most valuable player in our fantasy ballpark. As the clock on fantasy baseball drafts quickly winds down to a stop, let’s take a look at the highest projected fantasy baseball players according to USA Today.
10. Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles – 1B
This Texas native had a breakout season in 2013, setting a career-high batting average of .286, 103 runs and a league-leading 138 RBIs and 53 home runs. This 6’3″, 230-lb. first baseman won the AL Silver Slugger Award and was an AL Gold Glove Award Finalist in 2013. Entering his 4th season with the Orioles, Chris Davis is expected to produce another heavy hitting season this year. Expect this slugger to remain one of baseball’s best power hitters in 2014.
Tip: Be ready for a lot of strikeouts.
9. Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers – 3B
The Texas Rangers should be a team to look out for in 2014 with the acquisition of Shin-Soo Choo and Prince Fielder. While Adrian Beltre is the oldest player on our list at 34, the cleanup man will thrive off of his new teammates. Beltre led the AL in 2013 with 199 hits, 30 homers, 88 runs, 92 RBIs and a .315 batting average. Though many suspect he has reached the age of decline, Beltre is still one of baseball’s best third baseman and should continue to excel in 2014.
Tip: Could lead the league in RBIs with new talent.
8. Robinson Cano, Seattle Mariners – 2B
Robinson Cano has probably been the biggest signing of the off-season so far. The Seattle Mariners struggled last year and seem hopeful to turn that around if they make the right moves. Safeco Field is notoriously tough on hitters despite the park expansions made last year, but Cano bats left and should remain an elite player through the 2014 regular season. Along with Cano, the Mariners made some quieter acquisitions that should help Seattle boost their dismal .237 team average from last season.
Tip: Cano will be the center of this offense so expect a lot of opportunity.
7. Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals – OF
Bryce Harper is the youngest player on our list but age is just a number to this Nevada native looking to make another big splash in 2014. Although, Bryce only managed to improve his batting average last season, this young phenom has a lot of potential if he could just stay healthy. The Nationals have a lot of options in their lineup, so Harper will have to work hard to prove to new manager, Matt Williams, that he can stay on the field for 150 games.
Tip: Explosive potential but needs to stay healthy to unlock it.
6. Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies – OF
Carlos Gonzalez made his debut in 2008 with the Oakland Athletics, but seems to have found a home in Colorado. This left-fielder would be much higher on the list if it weren’t for injuries, so be ready for the possibility of losing a power starter down the line. Gonzalez played 110 games last season and managed a .302 batting average with 72 runs, 118 hits, 26 homers and 70 RBIs. Colorado was plagued with key injuries last season and CarGo is a high-risk, high-reward type of player that will provide a massive fantasy payday if he can stay on the field for 150 games.
Tip: Heaps of talent but very injury-prone.
5. Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers – SP
No surprise here! The only pitcher to make the cut is popular lefty, Clayton Kershaw. This Texas southpaw had one of the most memorable pitching seasons in Major League Baseball history last year. With an impressive 16-9 record, Kershaw posted a 1.83 ERA over 236 innings pitched and 0.92 WHIP. The Dodgers have one of the most dreaded bullpens in the entire league and Kershaw is currently at the start of the line. And, if Matt Kemp can stay healthy, Kershaw has four of the best outfielders in the league — Ethier, Crawford and Puig — covering his back in 2014.
Tip: Kershaw may be one of those players whose real life talent does not translate well to fantasy value.
4. Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks – 1B
Paul Goldschmidt is expected to be the best overall first baseman in Major League Baseball season this year. This right-handed D-Back finished the 2013 season smashing nearly all of his personal best records with a .302 batting average, 36 home runs and 125 RBIs. Arizona has some serious power hitters in their lineup and Goldschmidt will likely hit 3rd or 4th once the leadoff position has been filled. Chase Field is one of the most hitter-friendly ballparks and Goldschmidt will capitalize on that perk again in 2014.
Tip: Goldschmidt is just getting started and could put up better numbers than last season.
3. Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates – OF
Pittsburgh witnessed its first playoff berth since 1992 last season and most people would quickly credit this Florida native for their success. Since making his debut in 2009, McCutchen has a career batting average of .296 with 103 home runs and 379 RBIs. The Pirates need to find some help for McCutchen if they expect to return to the playoffs and make it past the NLDS. But there should be no reservations about picking up this outfielder… just sit back and enjoy The Clutch Show.
Tip: Coming off an MVP season, expect the best from one of the best.
2. Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers – 1B
Coming off his 10th season in Major League Baseball, Miguel Cabrera only seems to get better. Defensively, Cabrera will adjust to replacing Prince Fielder at first base proving yet again that he is just about everything you want in a player. With 365 home runs in 10-year career, this power hitter should be right at home in his new position. Last year, he led the league with a .348 batting average and could surely finish 2014 with a third consecutive AL MVP Award.
Tip: Must be willing to compromise on lack of bases of stolen. It’s worth it.
1. Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels – OF
Mike Trout is arguably the best all-around prospect in Major League Baseball. Only 22 years old, Trout led the AL with 109 runs in 2013 along with being an AL MVP runner-up. With 27 home runs and 97 RBIs last season, Trout should continue to excel hitting second in the lineup with some help from Albert Pujols and Kole Calhoun. Mike Trout is a game-changer in any fantasy match-up and you’re not likely going to get anyone similar in the second round.
Tip: Led the AL in walks with 110.