The most valuable fantasy baseball players aren't always the same as the most valuable real-life baseball players. Fantasy baseball excludes defense, for example, and a standard 5x5 league would undervalue on-base percentage.
So in the spirit of All-Star Weekend, here are my picks for the Fantasy All-Star teams. My selection criteria not only favors standard 5x5 fantasy categories, but also favors performance relative to their preseason draft slot. A player has to be one of the top performers at their position, but bonus points are given out for doing it as a late-round draft pick.
|STAR| - Denotes real-life All-Star starter.
AL - Alex Avila|STAR|, DET - On average, there were about 17 catchers selected in fantasy drafts this season before Avila went off the board. His teammate and fellow catcher Victor Martinez may have a slight edge in production, particularly in batting average (.316 v .286), but Avila is the one actually playing behind the plate and his value has been tremendous. En route to a real-life All-Star nod, he has 10 home runs and 46 RBI at a scarce position offensively, and was often acquired in the final minutes of draft day or off the waiver wire.
NL - Brian McCann|STAR|, ATL - McCann was one of the four catchers considered top tier this preseason, but with the injury problems of Joe Mauer and Buster Posey, McCann is the only one to live up to the highest of expectations. He leads all catchers with 15 home runs and 50 RBI, and is second with a .310 batting average.
AL - Paul Konerko, CHW - Adrian Gonzalez is the centerpiece of the American League first base group, and it's hard to argue against a .354 batting average. But Konerko has been the correct player to own so far, considering the price difference. Typically an 8th-round selection, Konerko has out-homered Gonzalez by five, and is second among his candidate pool in RBI. His one weakness has been runs, with just 41.
NL - Prince Fielder|STAR|, MIL - Albert Pujols' slow start and injury opened the door for Fielder to catch him in fan voting at the last minute. Sure, he took a high draft pick to acquire, but Fielder has done everything expected of him. He leads all NL first basemen with 22 home runs and 72 RBI, and his batting average is right around .300.
Snubs - Adrian Gonzalez|STAR|, BOS; Michael Morse, WSN
AL - Robinson Cano|STAR|, NYY - All options here seemed to have at least one weakness, so while I defaulted to the best overall player, my selection can probably be argued. Cano cost a first round pick, but at least he's earned it. He has 15 home runs, a .296 batting average and 57 runs and RBI. Ian Kinsler has the power (13 HR), speed (19 SB) and value (43.8 ADP) to challenge for this award, but I couldn't bring myself to overlook his .251 batting average.
NL - Danny Espinosa, WAS - ...But I can overlook Espinosa's .242 batting average. Despite that mark, Espinosa's breakout totals of 16 home runs, 52 RBI, and 12 steals have provided incredible value for anyone who took him late in drafts on a hunch.
AL - Michael Young, TEX - Young has actually played mostly at DH and first base this season, but because he qualifies at the hot corner in most fantasy leagues at third base, I think he's eligible for this spot too. No other third baseman jump off the page, and he deserves to be on this team somewhere, that's for sure. A middle-round draft pick who looked to be starting the decline phase of his career, Young has come storming back with a .323 batting average. His home run power isn't premier at the position, but he's keeping pace with the run producers with 59 RBI, which is actually more than real-life All-Star Alex Rodriguez has (52).
NL - Ryan Roberts, ARI - Third base is weaker in the National League. At age 30 with little major league track record, it's wouldn't have been surprising to see him go undrafted at the beginning of the year. After a first half that included 11 home runs and 13 steals, it would be shocking to see him unrostered. Aramis Ramirez has been a bit more productive, but Roberts should have cost much less.
AL - Asdrubal Cabrera|STAR|, CLE - Not much debate here. Cabrera has been the best of a weak crop of AL shortstops, but was ranked well outside the top five entering the season. If you grabbed him later in your draft, you are enjoying production from all five categories at a thin position.
NL - Jose Reyes|STAR|, NYM - He was available a few rounds later than usual due to injury concerns, and owners who took the risk have been rewarded with probably the most productive fantasy player of the first half at any position. His .354 batting average leads all hitters in the MLB, and his 30 steals rank him second. Reyes is currently out with a hamstring strain, but this award recognizes first half play only, and he is targeting a July 22 return.
Snubs - J.J. Hardy, BAL
AL - Jose Bautista|STAR|, TOR - Are there any doubters left? Didn't think so. Some prognosticators would have taken his current total of 31 home runs as a decent follow-up season to his breakout mark of 54 in 2010. I'm more impressed with his .334 batting average, considering he had never hit above .260 before this year.
AL - Curtis Granderson|STAR|, NYY - Granderson is a power-and-speed player that is exceeding expectations. There's nothing better than that in fantasy baseball. Lack of consistency in his batting average held down his draft value, but it's been good enough this year (.269) and he could reach 40 home runs and 30 steals by the end of the season.
AL - Jacoby Ellsbury, BOS - Ellsbury was another outfielder with a big question mark entering the season - health. He fell to the middle rounds of most drafts despite his huge stolen base potential, and he's delivered with 28 in the first half. The .316 batting average is the icing and the 62 runs are the fruit of this cake.
NL - Matt Kemp|STAR|, LAD - Kemp might be even more valuable to a fantasy team than top AL outfielder, Jose Bautista, because of his resurgence on the basepaths. After failing to hit .250 and steal 20 bases in 2010, he fell out of the first round, but this season he has a legitimate change to be just the fifth member of the 40-40 club.
NL - Lance Berkman|STAR|, STL - I admit that I shook my head after finding out the Cardinals were planning to play Berkman in the outfield when they already had a poor defender in Matt Holliday out there. Berkman was old and declining, and only had downside on draft day, so I avoided him. I could not have been more wrong. He has cooled down slightly after a hot June, but has 24 home runs and a .290 batting average to date.
NL - Michael Bourn, HOU - Bourn is the NL version of Jacoby Ellsbury on this fantasy All-Star team. He has a slightly worse batting average (but still good at .287), more steals with 35, and about the same amount of runs with 60. He's a better value though, because Bourn went much later in drafts.