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Position by position, your fantasy season can start here

With the MLB season starting on Thursday, there's no better day than a prep sports-less Tuesday to put together a fantasy report for the ages. I hope you know me well enough by now to know that I was kidding, but they are nothing if not informative.

These rankings might be similar to others you see online, but I haven't been shy about putting my spin on a few of the deeper positions around the diamond. Hopefully this helps you with your 2018 drafts and that you have an incredibly successful season. Feel free to call or email me with any fantasy questions you have. I will always have some kind of an opinion for you.

Keep in mind, the numbers listed with the batters are, in order, batting average, homers and RBIs.

FIRST BASE

Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks — The perennial top five pick has dropped into the second five because the new humidor in his home park is expected to lower HR rates, but he's definitely still a first-round choice.

Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds — Kinda ran hot and cold a year ago, but finished with the kind of numbers you'd expect. If the lineup around him continues to hit, count him in the top 10 overall.

Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs — The most consistent of all 1Bs, varying homers, RBIs and average just a hair over the last four seasons. He's the cornerstone of a very good hitting lineup in a good hitters park.

Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves — Another consistent one, posted .301-28-71 despite missing 44 games early. Putting up numbers like the ones after he returned in May will have him an MVP candidate again.

Cody Bellinger, Los Angeles Dodgers — What a tremendous rookie year (.267-39-97)! Those power numbers alone would make him a top 20 pick, but if he can avoid the sophomore jinx, the addition of outfield eligibility makes him a steal in the second round.

Also consider: Jose Abreu of the Chicago White Sox is another consistent performer in the Windy City; the Cleveland Indians' Edwin Encarnacion is an RBI machine; Eric Hosmer of the Kansas City Royals, at .318-25-94, just misses to top five at his position.

Sleeper/breakout candidate: Oakland A's Matt Olson had 20 homers after an Aug. 8 call-up, so who knows what he could do over a full season.

Stay away from: Ryan Zimmerman of the Washington Nationals had a good 2017 and he's in a good lineup, but he's injury-prone and will frustrate by disappearing statistically for long stretches, then go 4-for-4.

SECOND BASE

Jose Altuve, Houston Astros — Rightfully the defending NL MVP and a top three picks in anyone's draft this year. He's not just the high average, high runs, high steals guy many think. The 24 HRs and 81 RBIs will likely go up with an exciting, blossoming lineup behind him.

Jose Ramirez, Cleveland Indians — His numbers of .318-29-83 are more befitting a third baseman (at which he's also eligible) than at second, so his current ADP in the third round may change as the season draws nearer.

Brian Dozier, Minnesota Twins — Like Ramirez, he hits like a corner infielder with 34 homers and 93 RBIs a year ago, but his value is also enhanced by his 16 steals. His average is mediocre, but he'll contribute well all across the board.

Dee Gordon, Seattle Mariners — The top steals guy at his position. Expect close to the 60 he stole a year ago and probably the same average (.300) and number of runs (114) in a potent Seattle lineup.

Robinson Cano, Seattle Mariners — Two second basemen in Seattle? In reality, the aging (34) Cano will DH and maybe play some first to keep his powerful bat in the lineup. He may not hit the way he did three years ago, but he's around a .280-25-90 guy every year.

Also consider: The Baltimore Orioles' Jonathan Schoop will give you all the power numbers at a position not known for them; Whit Merrifield of the Kansas City Royals contributed across the board (.288-19-78, with 34 steals) last season and should again; Eduardo Nunez of the Boston Red Sox will be eligible at 1B and OF, as well, hit for average and steal bases.

Sleeper/breakout candidate: Ian Happ of the Chicago Cubs is versatile (OF eligible, too) and powerful, and should get more PT this season.

Stay away from: Daniel Murphy of the Washington Nationals is a standout, but lately too injury prone. He'll help you if you have a backup plan.

THIRD BASE

Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies — I wouldn't hesitate to take him ahead of the consensus No.1 pick, Mike Trout, because of his RBI proficiency. Expect another 130 of them to go with a .300 average and 35-40 homers. He's not just a product of Coors Field either, with great splits overall.

Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs — Numbers for the former NL MVP were a little off last year, but only by his standards. He may not retain his outfield eligibility this season, but be assured this half of the Brizzo corporation will be back on track this season.

Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles — Still young and also SS eligible, Machado suffered a little under the threat of trade at midseason last year and it showed only in his average (.259). Expect Bryant-like .290-38-95 from his this year.

Josh Donaldson, Toronto Blue Jays - A huge disappointment last season, falling off to just 78 RBIs, but the power numbers (33 Hrs) were still good despite an early trip to the DL costing him 33 games. He's 32 and is a prime candidate for a huge bounceback.

Alex Bregman, Houston Astros — Like Machado also SS eligible, his numbers are not as outstanding for a 3B as there, but in that amazing lineup, look for a solid improvement on his .284-19-71 with 17 steals from last year.

Also consider: Anthony Rendon of the Texas Rangers just misses the five after his .300-25-100 a year ago and is just coming of age in a great hitters park; Justin Turner of the Los Angeles Dodgers had a terrific 2017 (.322-21-71) in just 130 games. Back on the DL to start this year, but worth it if you can stash him; The Milwaukee Brewers' Travis Shaw was over .300 most of the year and finished at .278-31-101. Not so much a sleeper but still, the 10th round? Why?

Sleeper/breakout candidate: Nick Castellanos of the Detroit Tigers isn't much of a sleeper, either, after a .272-26-101 season AND he's OF eligible, too. A steal in the eighth round.

Stay away from: Miguel Sano of the Minnesota Twins has power (33 HRs) but strikes out way too much (470 times in 310 games) and with a legal issue pending, I wouldn't risk him until very late.

SHORTSTOP

Trea Turner, Washington Nationals — A great steals guy with a little bit of power, the speedy Turner should be good for 60 steals, double-digit homers and score a bunch of runs at the top of the Nats' strong lineup.

Carlos Correa, Houston Astros — A World Series champ at 23, Correa missed a good chuck of that title run with a thumb injury, but has apparently come all the way back and is a tick ahead of the two power-hitting standouts rated behind him.

Francisco Lindor, Cleveland Indians — He's as do-all a guy as you could hope for, but he will come at a high price (2nd round). His .273-33-89 with 99 runs and 15 steals on a potent offensive club make him worth it.

Cory Saeger, Los Angeles Dodgers — I feel I have to rank him this high because of his power (22 HRs), average (.289) and RBI potential, but the time he missed with a back injury scares me. Taking him would depend on where he'd fall and I don't think it's where I'd be interested.

Elvis Andrus, Texas Rangers — A pretty constant contributor in all phases of the game, Andrus is a fast, solid all-around hitter that showed unexpected 20-homer power last year. He's a little older now, but he's still a threat for 30 steals.

Also consider: Jean Segura of the Milwaukee Brewers is a .300 hitter that in this improved version of the Brew Crew should net around 12 homers, 50 RBIs and 30 steals; In this lineup, Didi Gregorius of the New York Yankees will be right with the rest in power for his position after .287-25-87 last summer; Xander Bogaerts of the Boston Red Sox saw his numbers fall off the previous year because of a wrist injury, but solid .280-15-75 with 20 steals isn't out of the question.

Sleeper/breakout candidate: Paul DeJong of the St. Louis Cardinals could move up into that group with a repeat of his .285-25-65 he posted as a rookie last year.

Stay away from: The Coloroado Rockies Trevor Story was a great story a few years ago, but the 24 homers and 87 RBIs he struggled to because of a .239 average. Another vanishing act for long stretches.

OUTFIELD

Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels — There's absolutely no real reason to take anyone else at No. 1, other than maybe Altuve or Arenado, but that depends on what you value. He's the best player in the game, so don't be surprised with 40 homers, 100 RBIs, 100 runs and 30 steals.

Mookie Betts, Boston Red Sox — May move up in the order which will cost him a few RBIs but give him a greater chance to score runs, Betts is surely to see more fastballs and is capable of an all-around solid .290-24-90 with 30 steals. A sure first-rounder.

Charlie Blackmon, Colorado Rockies — Tops in the ESPN Fantasy Baseball player rater over Stanton, Blackmon posted a .331-37-104 with 14 steals and a whopping 137 runs scored. Thank goodness, I was able to get him in the top six twice so far and, given the chance, you should, too.

Giancarlo Stanton, New York Yankees — With Judge and Sanchez, they make the Yanks into the Bronx Bombers again. Stanton could provide a Ruthian 60 homers to go with 130 RBIs and 120 runs scored ... if he can stay healthy, which has been a problem at times in his career.

J.D. Martinez, Boston Red Sox — A change of scenery to Boston and the Big Green Monster should give the former Tigers slugger a legit shot at 50 homers and, with the likes of Betts, Bogaerts, Devers and Benintendi around him, maybe 120 RBIs.

Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals — Harper is a free agent after this season, so expect one of his best seasons to lay the groundwork for a monster contract. Coming off a .319-29-87, all numbers should get a bump ... but beware the injury bug.

Also consider: Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees will see a lot more pitches to hit batting in front of Stanton and in front of Sanchez, but his numbers may regress by Stanton stealing some thunder, Still good for 45 homers, 115 RBIs and probably a .280 average; If George Springer of the Houston Astros can stay healthy, he's a monster (.283-34-85 with 112 runs) in an incredible lineup; Marcel Ozuna of the St. Louis Cardinals doesn't have Stanton to protect him, but after a .317-37-124 season last year for the Marlins, who needs him?

Sleeper/breakout candidate: Manual Margot of the San Diego Padres started well a year ago with .263-13-39 with 17 steals. I bet he gets to 20 homers and doubles his RBIs and swipes.

Stay away from: I've never been a fan, but Justin Upton of the Los Angeles Angels has to show me more than one year at .273-35-109 with 100 runs to be an early fourth-round pick.

CATCHER

Gary Sanchez, New York Yankees — With just Aaron Judge batting behind him, Sanchez's power was on full display, but add Giancarlo Stanton to that mix and ... wow! Look for amazing numbers for a catcher: .280-38-110.

Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants — Formerly the standard by which all receivers were judged, Posey is still a threat at the plate but more for average than power. He'll give you .320, but with barely double digits in HRs and 65 in RBIs.

Willson Contreras, Chicago Cubs - Along with Sanchez, the up-and-coming star at this spot and arguably the best defensive catcher of the bunch, certainly with the strongest arm. I've gone out of my way to get him in drafts because I think he gets to .280-28-85 for a strong Cubs lineup.

Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals — Consider him the old pro, he should once again give you numbers pretty much the same as what I want from Contreras, but at much less a price with an ADP of 123 to the Cubs catcher's 73.

J.T. Realmuto, Miami Marlins — Who knows what you'll get from the Marlins this year after their house cleaning, but whatever it is, Realmuto should be in the thick of it. In 2017, he posted .278-17-65, but moving up in the order should lift his RBI total.

Also consider: Evan Gattis of the Houston Astros should improve to 25 or so homers now that he will primarily DH, missing the wear-and-tear, but he'll have company there; the Seattle Mariners' Mike Zunino finally started living up to his potential with 25 HRs and 64 RBIs, the latter should increase in a tough order; We were warned to stay away from the St. Louis Cardinals' Yadier Molina last year, but he turned in .273-18-82 with nine steals. The other shoe will drop, but maybe not yet.

Sleeper/breakout candidate: Wellington Castillo of the Chicago White Sox is back in the Windy City. With the rebuild around him, he should be a mainstay after .282-20-53 last year in Baltimore.

Stay away from: Jonathan Lucroy of the Oakland A's was on top of this list after a .292-24-81 2016, but needs to show something after the bottom fell out last summer.

STARTING PITCHER

Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers — Unquestionably the top hurler and a sure late first-round pick, Kershaw has a great hitting team behind him and if he can stay healthy (back problems the last two seasons), he'll do better than his 18-4 record with 202 Ks and a 2.31 ERA.

Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals — Along with Kluber, Kershaw's only real challenger atop the pitchers list, the Nats' ace usually gets more strikeouts (268) and fewer walks (0.90 WHIP) than either. On another good hitting club, he should also be a first-round choice.

Corey Kluber, Cleveland Indians — Kluber, for ESPN's player rater, was the best in the game last year after going 18-4 with 265 Ks, a 2.25 ERA and 0.87 WHIP. To me, they are interchangeable, with one besting in one category but behind in others. You can't lose with any one of them.

Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox — He's very close to the top three, but a hair less consistent in wins because of toiling for the White Sox for so long. Let's see how Sale does now that he has a team that hits like he pitches. An early second-rounder, at least.

Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals — Compared to Scherzer, anyone would seem like a piker, but when healthy, Strasburg has been nearly as good after a 2017 season of 15-4, 2.52 with 204 Ks and a WHIP of 1.02. He won't be there by the late third round, so target him early.

Also consider: The Cleveland Indians' Carlos Carrasco had an ERA slightly higher at 3.29, he was stellar with 226 strikeouts and an 18-6 record. Not a bad No. 2 starter, is he?; Zach Grienke of the Arizona Diamondbacks is coming off a great season and he'll have the humidor helping him, the improvement he's making should continue; Justin Verlander of the Houston Astros is not in the top tier now as he was when with Detroit, but he's darn good (15-8, 219 Ks) and on a much better team.

Sleeper/breakout candidate: The Arizona Diamondbacks' Robbie Ray broke out with a 15-5 mark, 218 Ks and a 2.89 ERA, and now he gets the humidor. Target him in round four.

Stay away from: Injuries have made me leery of any pitcher from the New York Mets (something in the water?) but Noah Syndergaard has ace stuff when healthy.

RELIEF PITCHER

Kenley Jensen, Los Angeles Dodgers — Not a fan of closers in the first four round, or the top seven for that matter, but if you have to, Jansen's the guy. Dead even with Kimbrel, who was absolutely incredible last year, but Jansen's cutter earned him 41 saves, a 1.32 ERA and 109 Ks.

Craig Kimbrel, Boston Red Sox — Kimbrel was amazing for the BoSox last year, going 5-0 with 35 saves, a 1:43 ERA, 126 Ks and a tiny 0.68 WHIP. With an even stronger offense, Boston may not need him as often, but he'll be great when they do. Also a fourth-round selection currently.

Aroldis Chapman, New York Yankees — Now that he's away from Joe Madden, Chapman is great again and will give you strikeouts in addition to saves and the occasional win. Not in the league of the first two despite his 100-MPH stuff, he'll get lots of save chances.

Roberto Osuna, Toronto Blue Jays — Despite suffering from anxiety issues — just what you want from a closer — Osuna had a solid 2017 with 39 saves but a 3.38 ERA for short work is troubling. Still, at the end of a good rotation and with a tough team.

Corey Knebel, Milwaukee Brewers — The spinning wheel of Brewers closer stopped with Knebel and he deserved it. He came out of nowhere to notch 39 saves with a 1.78 ERA and with the afore-mentioned boosted lineup, he should top 40.

Also consider: Sean Doolittle of the Washington Nationals made the job his own after coming over from Oakland but he will have lots of competition should he falter even a bit; Alex Colome of the Tampa Bay Rays turned in an MLB-best 47 saves, despite a 3.24 ERA. He'll get plenty of work as well; Edwin Diaz of the Seattle Mariners registered 37 saves but has control and flyball issues to deal with if he's going to move up into a must-own.

Sleeper/breakout candidate: Ken Giles of the Houston Astros has lightning stuff, but control issues have kept the role up for grabs. I say he finds himself and shines.

Stay away from: Wade Davis of the Colorado Rockies was great for the Cubs last season with 32 saves and a 2.30 ERA, but he's in Coors Field now, so beware this change of scenery.

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