Editor’s Note: This is a guest post submitted by Jeff Herbst. Jeff has had a passion for sports ever since he could first walk. He works with Phoenix Bats, a company that creates wood bats such as their world-class maple baseball bats for amateur and professional ball players around the world.
Each year in fantasy baseball, there are certain players who can literally be counted on to provide top value for their owners, and their consistent offensive output can be relied upon to supply a sufficient number of fantasy points needed to dominate your league.
However this offseason, many of those high-value fantasy players could very well be on the move, and while some players continue to thrive offensively no matter where they play, others can struggle in their first year with their new teams.
Drafting in fantasy leagues can certainly be a crapshoot, but when you add the element of a new environment for a high-value fantasy player, it adds even more intrigue on fantasy draft day.
So, just who are the top fantasy players entering free agency in 2012? Let’s take a look.
5. Jonathan Papelbon: Boston Red Sox (now signed with the Philadelphia Phillies)
For the past several seasons, Boston Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon has provided his fantasy owners with valuable points in several pitching categories, including saves, WHIP, ERA and strikeouts.
However, Papelbon may very well be headed out of Boston this offseason, and while his numbers have been fairly consistent since 2006, how will a new venue affect his fantasy value? We’re guessing that Papelbon could very well thrive in a new environment, so keep Papelbon up high on your fantasy draft board.
4. David Ortiz: Boston Red Sox
This past season, Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz provided his fantasy owners with a nice boost over his 2009 and 2010 seasons. With a batting average of .309, 29 HR, 96 RBI and 40 doubles, Ortiz was a major fantasy points leader for his owners.
However, Ortiz, much like his (former) teammate Jonathan Papelbon, could be headed out of Boston as well. Just short of his 36th birthday, can Ortiz continue to provide big value to his fantasy owners in a new environment? Our guess is that Ortiz is unlikely to match his 2011 numbers, so adjust your fantasy draft board accordingly.
3. Jose Reyes: New York Mets
Considering the injury woes of New York Mets shortstop Jose Reyes in the 2009 and 2010 seasons, his offensive output in 2011 was a major bonus for his fantasy owners. His .337 average topped the National League, and with 31 doubles, 16 triples and 39 stolen bases, Reyes was easily one of the top fantasy players of the 2011 season.
Exactly where Reyes ends up in the 2012 could definitely affect those fantasy numbers. If Reyes ends up with the San Francisco Giants, playing half of his games at pitcher-friendly AT&T Park will definitely affect his fantasy value in 2012. Keep an eye on where Reyes lands in 2012—if he is able to stay injury-free, Reyes will still be a high-value fantasy guy, but where he plays his home games will have an effect on his 2012 fantasy output.
2. Prince Fielder: Milwaukee Brewers
Aside from Albert Pujols, Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder has been one of the most consistent players in terms of fantasy value since 2006. This last season was no different, as Fielder’s 38 HR, 120 RBI and .299 average once again led him to the top of the heap in terms of fantasy value.
Fielder will likely be playing somewhere else in 2012, unless the Brewers somehow come up with an attractive contract. Like Reyes, if Fielder ends up in San Francisco, AT&T Park will clearly affect his home run numbers. Fielder is still a first-round fantasy draft pick, but keep an eye on where he lands nonetheless.
1. Albert Pujols: St. Louis Cardinals
There is no question that St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols is the most sought-after free agent this offseason, and rightfully so. For his fantasy owners, Pujols has consistently provided the highest number of fantasy points among first baseman, and no matter where he ends up in 2012, he will likely continue to do so.
Our guess is that Pujols will resign with the Cardinals, so if you are not in a keeper fantasy league, Pujols should be targeted in your upcoming fantasy draft.