2016 All-Fantasy Team
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And here’s the All-Fantasy Team article:
Every championship fantasy team needs at least one superstar to provide difference-making numbers while a deep cast of complimentary players fills in around him. Each member of our 2016 All-Fantasy Team proved to be the game-changer at his respective position. No matter the acquisition cost for these players, they provided a return that could have keyed a Yoo-Hoo shower.
Jonathan Lucroy, C/1B: Lucroy was effective across 95 games with the Brewers, but it was his stretch-run success as part of a potent Rangers lineup that vaulted him to the top spot at his position. The 30-year-old’s impressive accomplishments included having a top-five positional ranking in all five standard categories. He could use his talented new supporting cast to challenge Buster Posey as the initial catcher to come off ’17 draft boards.
Paul Goldschmidt, first baseman: Goldschmidt has accomplished a rare feat in ’16 by leading all first basemen in overall value while tallying more steals than homers. A perennial .300 hitter who consistently hovers around the 100-mark in runs and RBIs, the 29-year-old should be a first-round pick next season despite failing to rank among the top-15 at his position in round-trippers.
Jose Altuve, second baseman: Altuve shocked many fantasy owners by following up his ’15 power jump by making another leap this season. The diminutive second baseman was the most valuable fantasy asset in the first half when he hit .341 with 14 homers and 23 steals across 405 plate appearances. Altuve has hit well enough since the All-Star break to urge owners to look past his late-season dip in steals and consider him a top-5 pick in ’17.
Nolan Arenado, third baseman: Arenado has used his prodigious power to emerge from a deep group of third base options to lead the position in overall production. With pronounced home/road splits this season, the 25-year-old used the benefits of playing half his games at Coors Field to rank among the Major League leaders in homers, RBIs and runs. Owners will be wise to ignore Arenado’s lack of speed and select him in the middle of the first round next season.
Jonathan Villar, SS/3B: With steals at a premium in ’16, Villar’s Major League leading total made him an elite fantasy asset. The 25-year-old’s fleet feet may have put him on this list, but he has provided a complete fantasy profile by also hitting .285 with 19 homers. Villar will come off the board in the initial rounds of ’17 drafts due to his ability to heavily impact the swipes category without leaving an owner bereft of power.
Mookie Betts, outfielder: Even owners who expected Betts to improve this season could not have envisioned such a large jump in production. Splitting time between the leadoff and cleanup spots in the highest-scoring lineup in baseball, the 23-year-old ranks among the Major League leaders in all five standard categories. Betts will be a top-3 pick next season even with the understanding that it will be hard for him to improve on his memorable ’16 campaign.
Mike Trout, outfielder: Death, taxes and Mike Trout on an All-Fantasy Team. Likely the least surprising player on this squad, Trout used an uptick in the batting average and stolen base categories to offset a drop in home run production this season. Wise owners will put Trout at the top of their ’17 draft boards despite the relative lack of talent surrounding him in the Angels lineup.
Charlie Blackmon, outfielder: On the strength of major improvements at the dish, Blackmon managed to retain his impressive overall value from ’15 despite tallying more than 20 fewer stolen bases. The 30-year-old has used his offense-inducing home venue and perch atop the second-highest scoring lineup in baseball to easily post career bests in homers, RBIs, runs and batting average. The time has come for owners to give Blackmon serious consideration in the first round of drafts.
Max Scherzer, starter: Scherzer set himself apart from the competitors at his position by leading all starters in strikeouts and WHIP. He may also lead the Senior Circuit in wins and ranks among baseball’s best in ERA despite giving up his share of home runs. Owners with plans of dominating the pitching categories next season will need to seriously consider Scherzer at the back end of the first round.
Madison Bumgarner, starter: The model of consistency, Bumgarner is about to finish a fourth consecutive season with an ERA below 3.00 and a sub-1.10 WHIP. The southpaw took his game to another level by posting a career-best strikeout total, which made up for a dropoff of at least three wins from the 18 he produced in ’14 and ’15. Bumgarner will be one of the safest options in the second or third round of ’17 drafts.
Rick Porcello, starter: Along with Villar, Porcello may be the most surprising name on this team. The right-hander is about to complete a remarkable transformation that shifted him from waiver-wire fodder to the Major League leader in wins and arguably the ace on a World Series contender. Wise fantasy owners will project some going-forward regression for Porcello due to his career-long inconsistency and a .266 BABIP this season that is more than 40 points lower than his career mark.
Clayton Kershaw, starter: Remarkably, Kershaw managed to crack the All-Fantasy Team rotation despite missing all of July and August due to injury. On pace to produce career lows in ERA and WHIP, the left-hander is unquestionably the best pitcher in baseball. Even owners who tend to avoid taking pitchers in the early rounds must recognize that a starter who owns a 1.87 ERA and a 0.86 WHIP since the outset of ’13 is a fine choice at any point in round 1.
Jon Lester, starter: Lester is performing his best impersonation of teammate Jake Arrieta circa ’15 by producing Cy Young-worthy numbers on the strength of a remarkable second half that includes a 10-0 record and a 1.34 ERA. Backed by a Cubs squad that leads the Majors by a wide margin with a .730 defensive efficiency ratio, the southpaw has produced career-best numbers with the support of a .255 BABIP. Fantasy owners should expect more of the same next season from Lester and his ultra-talented supporting cast.
Kenley Jansen, reliever: Jansen must have had some kind of ’16 season in order to generate more fantasy value than a closer (Zach Britton) who has converted all 47 of his save chances and has logged a 0.55 ERA. The Dodgers’ stopper has reigned supreme at his position by producing a low ERA, a minuscule WHIP and a triple-digit strikeout total across more than 50 save chances. The tremendous turnover at the closer position this season will make Jansen a tough option to resist once the initial four rounds are completed in ’17 drafts.
Fred Zinkie is the lead fantasy baseball writer for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FredZinkieMLB