By Sam McPherson
It’s that time of year again, when you no longer have to stress out every morning about setting your fantasy baseball lineup. You can put the mouse down this morning, pour over the standings from your 2016 league results and analyze what went wrong—or right, if you read this column all season.
That being said, we put together our version of the best fantasy baseball roster you could have come up with this season, from all eight fielding positions to all the pitching slots on a standard fantasy baseball lineup. We hope many of these players were on your team, for that would mean you had some amazing success in 2016.
Catcher: Jonathan Lucroy, MIL/TEX—He finished with a .292 average, 24 home runs and 81 RBI, and Lucroy even tossed in five stolen bases. That’s a great season for a catcher that switched leagues in the middle of the year.
First Base: Paul Goldschmidt, ARI—Hitting .297 was the least of his accomplishments this season. Goldie also added 106 runs scored, hit 24 HRs, drove in 95 runs and stole 32 bases. The power was lower than expected, but it’s hard to complain about a well-rounded season like this one.
Second Base: Jose Altuve, HOU—It’s rare that the best 2B in fantasy is better than the best 1B, but that’s what happened here with Altuve’s .338 average, 108 runs, 24 HRs, 96 RBI and 30 SBs. Drafting power-speed combinations really does make a difference in fantasy baseballl.
Shortstop: Jonathan Villar, MIL—Considering he may have been an afterthought on draft day, Villar came up big with his new team after being displaced in Houston. He hit .285, scored 92 runs, hit 19 HRs, drove in 63 runs and stole 62 SBs. That last stat led the major leagues, by the way.
Middle Infield: Jean Segura, ARI—Funny to see so many players from bad teams make this squad, once again showing that real-life value is different than fantasy value. Hitting .319 and scoring 102 runs was nice, but Segura also added 20 HRs, 64 RBI and 33 SBs. He, too, was probably undrafted last spring in your league.
Third Base: Nolan Arenado, COL—He hit .294 and scored 116 runs for another sub-.500 team, and Arenado added a whopping 41 HRs and 133 RBI. He’s so young, and he’s only going to get better. Playing in Colorado for 81 games always helps any batter, too, of course.
Corner Infield: Kris Bryant, CHI—The favorite for real-life MVP in the National League, Bryant put together a nice season for the Cubbies. He hit .292 and scored 121 runs, while adding 39 HRs and 102 RBI. The eight SBs were just a nice piece of frosting on the cake.
Outfield: Mookie Betts, BOS—With a .318 average and 122 runs scored, Betts was a force in the Red Sox lineup. Toss in 31 HRs, 113 RBI and 26 SBs, and he was the best overall hitter in fantasy baseball this year, period.
Outfield: Mike Trout, LAA—What to say about Trout? He’s the same as he ever was. This year, he posted a .315 average, 123 runs, 29 HRs, 100 RBI and 30 SBs. It wasn’t his best season ever, but it’s hard to complain about any of those numbers from the guy that most people selected first in the draft.
Outfield: Charlie Blackmon, COL—Another Rockies star, Blackmon was the third-best OF of the season in 2016. He hit .324 and scored 111 runs. He also hit 29 HRs of his own, drove in 82 runs and stole 17 bases. Fantasy baseball loves Coors Field.
Utility: Joey Votto, CIN—He hit .408 in the second half alone, but for the season, Votto hit .326 and scored 101 runs for a bad team. With 29 HRs, 97 RBI and eight SBs, though, he added plenty of value all the way around to edge out a few other more-famous players for this spot.
Starting Pitcher: Max Scherzer, WAS—He won eight of his last nine starts to reach 20 wins, but the real value came with the 284 strikeouts. The 2.96 ERA was good, of course, but the 0.97 WHIP was just incredible for a starting pitcher with so many innings.
Starting Pitcher: Clayton Kershaw, LAD—Despite missing a good chunk of the season, Kershaw still rates this spot because of 12 wins, a 1.69 ERA and a miniscule 0.72 WHIP. Did we mention the 172 Ks? If he had been healthy all season, Kershaw could have posted one of the best seasons in history.
Starting Pitcher: Jon Lester, CHC—He missed his shot at 20 wins by losing his last start, but 19 wins is nothing to sneeze at in fantasy baseball. With 197 Ks, a 2.44 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP, Lester was the best pitcher on the best pitching staff in MLB this year.
Starting Pitcher: Justin Verlander, DET—After struggling for a few seasons, the Tigers ace came back with a vengeance in 2016. Posting a 16-9 record and a 3.04 ERA, Verlander also notched 254 Ks and a 1.00 WHIP to be the American League’s best fantasy starter this year.
Starting Pitcher: Rick Porcello, BOS—Never a big K guy, Porcello did manage to register 189 Ks this year. Toss in 22 wins and a 3.15 ERA, and he had the best fantasy season of his career, by far. The 1.01 WHIP was a pleasant surprise, too.
Relief Pitcher: Kenley Jansen, LAD—With 47 saves and 104 Ks, Jansen’s value also came with the 1.83 ERA and the 0.67 WHIP. With numbers like that, you wonder how he could ever blow a save. The Dodgers have a nice SP/RP combination for the postseason, don’t they?
Relief Pitcher: Zach Britton, BAL—He almost made history with his 47 saves and 0.54 ERA this year, and when you toss in his 0.8 WHIP and 74 Ks, it’s easy to see why Britton is near the top of this list for his position. It was just an incredible year for the Orioles closer.
Relief Pitcher: Mark Melancon, PIT/WAS—With 47 saves for two different teams, he proved to be one of those difference makers acquired midsummer. Melancon registered 65 Ks, posted a 1.64 ERA and logged a 0.90 WHIP while helping the Nationals reach 95 wins again.
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering baseball, football, basketball, golf and fantasy sports for CBS Local. He also is an Ironman triathlete and certified triathlon coach. Follow him on Twitter @sxmcp, because he’s quite prolific despite also being a college English professor and a certified copy editor.