Sunday, February 14, 2010

Life is Just a Fantasy: The Early Rankings

So it’s February which is, for most hardcore baseball fans, the worst month of the year. Most or all of the free agents that can make even a small impact on a team is signed, Pitchers and catchers are still a few weeks away and no real baseball activity is going on. However that does make it the perfect time to start thinking about your Fantasy Baseball draft. It’s never too early!

Anyway, since we all have to start thinking about who should be at the top of our fantasy wish lists, I thought I’d list my early top tweleve players per position. These ranks are subject to change once spring training comes around and performance, health and other issues come to light.

Let’s get to it.

1. Tim Lincecum – SF Giants
2. Roy Halladay - PHI Phillies
3. Felix Hernandez – SEA Mariners
4. Dan Haren – ARI Diamondbacks
5. Justin Verlander – DET Tigers
6. C. C. Sabathia – NY Yankees
7. Cliff Lee – SEA Mariners
8. Johan Santana – NY Mets
9. Zach Greinke – KC Royals
10. Chris Carpenter – STL Cardinals
11. Jon Lester – BOS Red Sox
12. Brandon Webb – ARI Diamondbacks

Ok, I know right off the bat these are gonna blow some people’s minds. I doubt anyone would argue the top four that much. Lincecum has proven himself to be flat out amazing and Halladay, who already was one of the best will only benefit from pitching in the NL and with that offense backing him up. In fact, if Halladay wasn’t a slight injury concern, I would have listed him as #1. I listed Verlander as high as I did because I just saw some serious domination from him in 2009 that I think will increase in 2010. I have Greinke listed as low as I do because the Royals are still terrible and I’d like to see him be as dominate two years in a row before I consider him to be a no brainer. Santana would have ranked higher if there wasn’t a little concern about him coming back from injury. Webb made the cut over names like Adam Wainwright and Josh Johnson mainly because if he is healthy (and Arizona is reporting he’ll be ready for spring training) he’s one of the best in baseball. In fact he would be six or seven spots higher if there was no injury he was returning from.

1. Albert Pujols – STL Cardinals
2. Miguel Cabrara – DET Tigers
3. Mark Teixeria – NY Yankees
4. Adrian Gonzales – SD Padres
5. Prince Fielder – MIL Brewers
6. Ryan Howard – PHI Phillies
7. Justin Morneau – MIN Twins
8. Joey Votto – CIN Reds
9. Kevin Youkilis – BOS Red Sox
10. Pablo Sandoval – SF Giants
11. Victor Martinez – BOS Red Sox
12. Mark Reynolds – ARI Diamondbacks

Anyone who would argue #1 shouldn’t be allowed to talk so I’ll skip that. I picked Cabrara over Teixeria mainly because I view him as a mini-Pujols and expect a hell of a year from him. Gonzales is a rising super-star who I think will not only rise above his 2009 production but will also be traded by the trade deadline to a contender and that will increase his value. I think Morneau isn’t given enough credit for being such a great hitter and his injury from 2009 will not linger. Sandoval and Martinez will also be avaialbale at the catcher position and will rank higher there but are still good choices at 1st. Reynolds strikes out a ton but it’s hard to argue with his HR, RBI and Run totals.

1. Chase Utley – PHI Phillies
2. Ian Kinsler – TEX Rangers
3. Brandon Phillips – CIN Reds
4. Dustin Pedroia – BOS Red Sox
5. Brian Roberts – BAL Orioles
6. Robinson Cano – NY Yankees
7. Ben Zorbist – TAM Rays
8. Aaron Hill – TOR Blue Jays
9. Jose Lopez – SEA Mariners
10. Dan Uggla – FLA Marlins
11. Ian Stewert – COL Rockies
12. Howie Kendrick – LA Angels

As with 1st base no one will argue with Chase at #1. Phillips is a very balanced player and Roberts’ average, OBP, speed and runs lift him over the at-times inconsistant Cano. Uggla’s stikeouts and poor fielding hurts but 30 HR and 95 RBI at the 2nd base positions is hard to pass up. This is either the year that Kendrick stays healthy and shows how important that sweet swing of his can be or the year the Angels give up on him altogether.

1. Hanley Ramirez – FLA Marlins
2. Jose Reyes – NY Mets
3. Troy Tulowitski – COL Rockies
4. Derek Jeter – NY Yankees
5. Jimmy Rollins – Phi Phillies
6. Jason Bartlett – TAM Rays
7. Yunel Escobar – ATL Braves
8. Elvis Andrus – TEX Rangers
9. Stephen Drew – ARI Diamondbacks
10. Alexi Ramirez – CHI White Sox
11. Asdrubal Cabrera – CLE Indians
12. Erick Aybar – LA Angels

Despite a year that was below expectations, Ramirez continues to be the cream of the crop. Reyes seems 100% healthy as seems determined to earn back the statis he held when being picked in the first round for a few years and I think he will return to that level. Tulowitski benefits from his home stadium but his overall numbers were prtty solid in 2009, showing that he was back to normal after prior struggles in 2008. Jeter is aging very well, and a high average and runs scored plus hitting in that Yankee lineup is wonderful. Rollins’ production has decreased every year for the last three years but he still puts up solid enough numbers in a weak position. Bartlett is the last of the better choices and the position gets thin from there.

1. Alex Rodriguez – NY Yankees
2. Evan Longoria – TAM Rays
3. David Wright – NY Mets
4. Ryan Zimmerman – WAS Nationals
5. Pablo Sandoval – SF Giants
6. Kevin Youkillis – BOS Red Sox
7. Aramis Ramierz – CHI Cubs
8. Mark Reynolds – ARI Diamondbacks
9. Chone Figgins – SEA Mariners
10. Michael Young – TEX Rangers
11. Chipper Jones – ATL Braves
12. Jorge Cantu – FLA Marlins

A-Rod’s 2009 was nothing short of incredible. Not his numbers, which were good, if unspectacular, but because of the way the year started with his steriod scandal but ended with him having a great postseason performance and a world series championship. Longoria had a fantastic start to 2009 but had a little bit of a rough 2nd half and is still one of the brightest players in all of MLB. Wright’s 2009 was an abberation and while I don’t expect 30+ home runs a .315, 24, 105, 25 SB season is more than within reason. Sandoval, Youkillis and Reynolds are eligable at multiple positions so that makes them even more valuable. Jones would have ranked higher if he could just stay healthy. His bat is still ultra dangerous.

1. Ryan Braun – MIL Brewers
2. Matt Kemp – LA Dodgers
3. Matt Holliday – STL Cardinals
4. Jacoby Ellsbury – BOS Red Sox
5. Carl Crawford – TAM Rays
6. Justin Upton – ARI Diamondbacks
7. Jason Werth – PHI Phillies
8. Grady Sizemore – CLE Indians
9. Jason Bay – NY Mets
10. Ichiro Suzuki – SEA Mariners
11. Adam Lind – TOR Blue Jays
12. Adam Dunn – WAS Nationals

This position was much harder than I would have thought. Braun was the no doubt #1. He’s a seriously scary hitter And his 1/2 punch with Fielder reminds me of the Manny/Big Papi duo of 2003/2004. Kemp’s star is rising and the SBs keep him just above Holliday, who will enjoy a full season in St. Louis with Pujlos. Carlos Beltran would have actually placed at either #2 or #3 before he went down for surgery, but I cannot put him in the top 15 until we see how fast he comes back and how well he recovers. Ellsbury ranks ahead of Crawford here because I think his power will increase and his SB output is higher, but they really are interchangeable. However NEITHER ONE is a first round pick so don’t waste it there. The next few spots are also interchangable to a point depending on your desire for speed or power. Suzuki’s high average isn’t enough to offset the decrease in SBs for him and Lind and Dunn’s high power numbers let them top off the rankings. Lind might break 40 HRs this year and Dunn’s numbers are so consistant you know what they will be. 40 home runs and 100 RBI with the occasional SB to help take the sting away from the likely .250 BA and high strike outs.

1. Joe Mauer – MIN Twins
2. Victor Martinez – BOS Red Sox
3. Brian McCann – ATL Braves
4. Matt Wieters – BAL Orioles
5. Miguel Montero – ARI Diamondbacks
6. Jorge Posada – NY Yankees
7. Ryan Doumit – PIT Pirates
8. Geovany Soto – CHI Cubs
9. Kurt Suzuki – OAK A’s
10. Mike Napoli – LA Angels
11. Bengie Molina – SF Giants
12. Russell Martin – LA Dodgers

Joe Mauer is the best pure hitter in baseball. Yes there is always a little injury risk with him but the guy can flat out HIT. Martinez will play a little 1st and DH on occasion to keep him fresh as possible and he is back to his normal production. McCann is still a solid plus at the plate. After him though, it gets a little more hazy. Wieters should improve and a .280, 22 HR season is not out of the question at all. Montero is decent but Posada, despite very good numbers will get less chances to DH then I would have expected since the Yanks have Nick Johnson logjamming that position. A DL stint is likely for Posada but his numbers should by similar enough to 2009 that he’s worth more than the rest of the position ranked after him. In fact, after Doumit and maybe Soto the rest are a total crapshoot. Soto needs to regain that power stroke that helped him so much in 2008 and Doumit needs a full season without injury. If you do not get one of the top five or six guys here, do not panic and draft someone too early for the sake or grabbing a catcher. After Posada the numbers will all be just about the same most likely. Wait until the much later rounds.

1. Marino Rivera – NY Yankees
2. Joe Nathan – MIN Twins
3. Jonathan Papelbon – BOS Red Sox
4. Francisco Rodriquez – NY Mets
5. Jonathan Broxton – LA Dodgers
6. Joakim Soria – KC Royals
7. Heath Bell – SD Padres
8. Huston Street – COL Rockies
9. Jose Valverde – DET Tigers
10. Francisco Cordero – CIN Reds
11. Andrew Bailey – OAK A’s
12. Trevor Hoffman – MIL Brewers

Rivera is a machine. Don’t bother doubting him and he’ll have a lot of save oppertunities. Nathan and Papelbon are still as solid as they come despite their postseason struggles. K-Rod will have more leads to protect this year with 65% of the team back from injury and I expect a bounce back from his sub-par 2nd half. Broxton and Street also had postseason struggles but are a good source of saves. If Soria was on a better team he would be ranked higher, but still expect 30 from him anyway. Bell is way under valued and the Giants will be decent enough this year. Valverde will be good for the Tigers and I expect him to do fine in the AL. The best advice I can give for RPs is this: DO NOT DRAFT A CLOSER BEFORE THE 12th ROUND. Every year a few closers go down to injury or lose their jobs and cheap saves can ALWAYS be found. Do NOT overpay for saves people. There is always decent value in the late rounds.

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