Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Even though we're just moving into March, using the power of The Sports Network's 2014 MLB projections, we can now reveal to our readers the best of the best for the upcoming baseball season.
That's like us telling you the winners of all the Oscar categories before the films even hit the big screen, but with our award-winning staff that's exactly what we have done.
The complete list of projections and rankings will be revealed next week, but the top performances of 2014 can and will be revealed right now.
Fantasy Batting Categories:
Home Runs - Chris Davis, Baltimore (43).
No surprise here, though after a 53-home run season a year ago, some fantasy owners may be disappointed with the 43-homer total. The problem is he hit a home run every 9.27 at-bats in the first half of the year and every 15.06 at- bats in the second half of the season after pitchers stopped throwing to him.
RBI - Miguel Cabrera, Detroit (123).
As with the home run category, it's not a surprise who is on top, Cabrera is the best pure hitter in the game now that Albert Pujols is feeling his age. But the 123-RBI total is less than he produced in each of the last two seasons. Cleanup hitter Victor Martinez simply cannot protect Cabrera as well as Prince Fielder did the past few season.
Runs - Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona, and Matt Carpenter, St. Louis (113).
Goldschmidt is continuing to improve each season and this is just another indicator. He scored 82 runs in 2012 and 103 runs last season. The addition of slugger Mark Trumbo should push the Diamondbacks' first baseman to the top of the list.
To expect Carpenter to produce another 126-run season is to expect lightning to strike in the same spot two times. He's not a great home run hitter and his lineup will be missing a very productive Carlos Beltran. Still, 113 runs is a great total.
Stolen Bases - Billy Hamilton, Cincinnati (83).
It's been 25 years since a major leaguer stole 80 bases (1988, when Vince Coleman had 81 and Ricky Henderson swiped 93). But it's been a long time since we saw a player like the 23-year-old Cincinnati outfielder. He swiped 13 bases (caught once) in 13 games after being called up last season and stole 155 between minor league stops at Bakersfield and Pensacola during 2012.
Batting Average - Mike Trout, Anaheim (.324).
After batting .326 in 2012 and .323 in 2013, this number certainly isn't a stretch by any means and Trout could easily post a much higher number. It's only big news because it means that Cabrera isn't ahead of him because the Detroit star has batted .330 or better in each of the last three seasons.
OPS - Miguel Cabrera, Detroit (1.017).
He's the best hitter in the game. Enough said.
Fantasy Pitching Categories:
Wins - Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles (21).
Kershaw has made at least 30 starts for five consecutive seasons and he's led the league in ERA and WHIP over the past three years and strikeouts in two of the last three. He's only 25 years old and just reaching his prime pitching years, which is why the Dodgers gave him a seven-year, $215 million deal. The Los Angeles offense, with Yasiel Puig for an entire season and hopefully a healthy Matt Kemp, should improve its production from a year ago, so Kershaw will be a 20-game winner for a second time in his career.
Strikeouts - Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles (232).
Starter ERA - Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles (2.01).
Starter WHIP - Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles (0.945).
Reliever ERA - Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta (1.31).
Kimbrel has been by far the best closer in the NL for the past three seasons, totaling 138 saves with a stunning 1.48 ERA, 0.871 WHIP and 341 strikeouts in 206 2/3 innings.
Reliever WHIP - Koji Uehara, Boston (0.71).
Uehara's 2013 was well beyond good and bordered on the spectacular. In 73 appearances, he pitched 74 1/3 innings and gave up just 33 hits and nine walks for a WHIP of 0.565 to go along with a 1.09 ERA. He was even better down the stretch, posting an unbelievable 0.28 ERA and 0.313 WHIP after the All-Star break. Put simply, he was "unhittable." There is no reason to think that will change in 2014.
Saves - Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta (47).
Kimbrel has posted 46, 42 and 50 saves over the past three seasons. As long as the arm doesn't fall off, he should be a "lock" for at least 40 more in 2014. The more important question is how many opportunities he'll get as we have some concerns over the loss of catcher Brian McCann and the unproductive bats of B.J. Upton, Dan Uggla and Jason Heyward, which could drag down the Braves' offense.