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Fantasy Baseball: An Early Look at the 2012 First Round

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I was checking out Derek Carty's fantasy baseball chat over at Baseball Prospectus yesterday and came across this question:

Andrew (Las Vegas): This season's 1st round by ADP: Pujols, Hanley, Miggy, Longoria, Tulo, CarGo, Votto, Wright, AGon, Cano, Teixeira, and Braun. Who falls out next season? Who are candidates to enter the 1st round?

Derek Carty: I'm surprised Matt Kemp didn't make that list this year, and he'll definitely be on it next year. I think we also see Jose Bautista join the ranks as people finally buy into him. Jacoby Ellsbury seems fairly likely, and you might be able to make a case for Curtis Granderson. I think the best bets to fall out to make room include Wright, Teixeira, Longoria, and maybe a CarGo or Hanley.

Of the list provided by Andrew in his question for Derek, I can see half of the top 12 dropping out of the first round, including Hanley Ramirez, Evan Longoria, Carlos Gonzalez, Joey Votto, David Wright, and Mark Teixeira. I see no reason to draft Hanley Ramirez in the first round of 2012 drafts, after his shoulder surgery, his down year at the plate in 2011,  and his 3 year drop in power. Last November, I wrote this piece projecting my 2011 first round draft picks. It was an early look for sure, and my list included four hitters who turned out to be big busts in 2011. As high as I was on Matt Kemp, I should have included him in that list, but did not. I did include Kemp in my Top 12 NL-only hitters though.

My first round picks after the jump:

Here is my early look at the 2012 first round. I am not one to take a starting pitcher in the first round of any draft, but if there is one, it would be Roy Halladay. Rather than spew out stats, I will just write one or two sentences on each player, saving the detailed analysis for my position rankings that will come in October.

1. Matt Kemp-I projected him to have a 30-30 season this year, and he out-performed even that lofty projection. A few years ago, former Dodgers third base coach Rich Donnelly stated that Kemp had the potential to be the best player in baseball. Well Rich, you were right. (That should stir up some comments, huh?).

2. Jacoby Ellsbury-there was talk last offseason that the Red Sox might trade Ellsbury. Where would they be if they did, especially after the season Carl Crawford had? Ellsbury is my AL MVP.

3. Curtis Granderson-who would have thought he would hit 40 HRs this season? Certainly not me, and he is in the mix for AL MVP for sure.

4. Ryan Braun-he rebounded after a down power year in 2010. Braun had his first 30-30 season of his career, but wonder if he will ever steal 30 again.

5. Jose Bautista-Bautista put together an excellent follow up to his 50+ HR season in 2010, but fell off a bit in the second half as he hit just .261-.422-.483 after a .334-.468-.702 in the first half.

6. Albert Pujols-I was early on the down year call, and I was wrong. Pujols had a solid second half even after breaking his wrist, and proved he is the best player in the game. He should get one huge contract this offseason, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him leave STL.

7. Miguel Cabrera-did he have the quietest .343-.447-.585 season ever? He still hasn't hit 40 HRs in a season, and wonder if he ever will.

8. Troy Tulowitzki-Tulo still gets injured every year, but he still puts up solid numbers for a shortstop going 30-105-.302. He takes over as my #1 shortstop in 2012, and is a first round pick in most leagues in 2012.

9. Robinson Cano-Cano put up another solid season at the plate, and I wonder if he will ever bust out a 35 HR season. He, Ian Kinsler and Dustin Pedroia will battle for my #1 fantasy second baseman in 2012. Leaning toward Kinsler due to the stolen bases.

10. Adrian Gonzalez-AGonz had an excellent first year in Boston, but I was expecting more home runs from him. He hit just 11 home runs since June 30th this season, but I expect him to approach 35 bombs in 2012.

11. Ian Kinsler-Kinsler put up another 30-30 season in 2011, and was second in the majors in runs scored with 121. He could wind up as my #1 fantasy second baseman in 2012.

12. Justin Upton-Upton had a breakout season this season, going 30-20-.290 and he lowered his strikeout rate as well. Look for more of the same in 2012.