Fri, Jan 22, 2010
Image Credit: Gallery 2 Images
In the coming weeks, I will attempt to create the most accurate 2010 big board available. This draft guide will be released 10 players at a time until my top 50 have been revealed.
These lists will take into account past, present and future values based on standard 5×5 H2H settings. As I introduce each player one-by-one, it’s my goal to reveal something you didn’t already know. Feel free to agree or disagree with my rankings, as I’m always up for a healthy debate.
1. Albert Pujols – 1B – St. Louis Cardinals
Is there any doubt who’s No. 1? During his nine-year career, Pujols’ season lows are as follows: 99 runs, 32 HR, 103 RBI, .314 batting average. Not many people can claim their worst year is better than most people’s best, but that’s just the case with Pujols.
Fortunately, there are very few signs of the 29-year-old slowing down, as he’s coming off of arguably his best season yet. His offseason elbow surgery was deemed a success, so for now he’s the indisputable No. 1 pick.
2. Hanley Ramirez – SS – Florida Marlins
Of the 13 players who hit 20 HR and stole 20 bases in 2009, the Marlins’ shortstop was the only one to post an OBP over .400. This type of production makes him the most valuable power/speed combo player.
Hanley’s 2009 HR and stolen base totals dropped off from their 2008 level, but the soon to be 26-year-old remains the No. 2 player.
His power decline is a bit deceiving, as Ramirez missed some time due to a hamstring injury late in the season. His 2009 HR/FB rate (12.1%) is in line with his 2007 mark, (12.7%) when he hit 29 HR.
Expect Ramirez to flirt with another 30/30 season in 2010, while maintaining a .320 average.
3. Ryan Braun – LF – Milwaukee Brewers
It’s difficult to understand how good Braun has been since making his big league debut in May of 2007. Despite playing in just 113 games during his rookie season, Braun’s three-year averages are as follows: 99 runs, 34 HR, 106 RBI, 16 steals, .308 batting average.
Braun is one of the most well-rounded fantasy commodities, and should now be the first outfielder selected in your 2010 draft.
Perhaps the most encouraging stat lies within Braun’s K/BB ratios. Since his 2007 rookie campaign, the soon to be 26-year-old has increased his BB percentage each season, (6.0% in ‘07, 6.4% in ‘08, 8.2% in ‘09) while cutting down on strikeouts (24.8% in ‘07, 21.1% in ‘08, 19.1% in ‘09).
4. Chase Utley – 2B – Philadelphia Phillies
Utley’s unique power/speed combo at the second base position makes him one of my favorite players to own. Over the last three seasons, no second basemen has even sniffed Utley’s averages over that time, which are as follows: 110 runs, 29 HR, 100 RBI, 15 steals and a .301 batting average.
The 30-year-old has failed to maintain his career .321 BABIP over the past two seasons, leading to a decline in his batting average. Even his poor luck, however, hasn’t stopped him from preserving his status as the best second basemen in fantasy baseball.
It’s easy to find value at the infield and outfield corner positions, but middle infielders who produce like Utley give you an incredible advantage over your opponent. Because of this, he’s a definite top-five pick.
5. Miguel Cabrera – 1B – Detroit Tigers
Cabrera is the epitome of consistency. If you discount his 2003 rookie season, Cabrera has six full seasons under his belt. The 26-year-old has never played in less than 157 games during a season, and he’s driven in at least 100 runs each year.
His career averages are as follows: 99 runs, 33 HR, 115 RBI, .315 average. There is very little risk involved with Cabrera, as the Tigers’ first basemen is in the prime of his career.
6. Alex Rodriguez – 3B – New York Yankees
A-Rod’s total number of games played has decreased each of the last three seasons, starting at 158 games in 2007, to just 138 in 2008, while playing in only 124 games in 2009. While this does raise some durability questions for the 34-year-old, Rodriguez has still managed to hit at least 30 HR and drive in 100+ runs in 12 consecutive seasons.
Rodriguez’s 2009 totals in just 444 at-bats put him on a 162-game pace of 102 runs, 39 HR, 131 RBI, 18 steals, and a .286 batting average. This type of production proves he’s still worthy of a top-10 pick and should be the No. 1 third basemen selected.
7. Ryan Howard – 1B – Philadelphia Phillies
I had never been a fan of Ryan Howard’s fantasy value…until last season, when I realized just how good he’s been. The big left-handed hitter has now logged four full seasons in the big leagues. Only once has he hit less than .268 in a season, and he’s a .279 career hitter.
Howard hit .251 in 2008, but judging by his .289 BABIP that year (his career BABIP is .333) it’s obvious to me that he’s a legitimate .280 hitter.
If the 29-year-old maintains his respectable average, his incredible power numbers make him a top-10 player. In each of the last four seasons, Howard has hit 58, 47, 48 and 45 HR. During that time, he’s never totaled less than 136 RBI.
8. Mark Teixeira – 1B – New York Yankees
Despite playing for four teams in the last three season, Teixeira continues to produce. The 29-year-old has hit at least 30 HR in each of his last six seasons, showing no signs of slowing down.
Teixeira’s consistency from year to year makes him worthy of being ranked as the eighth player overall. His three-year averages of 97 runs, 34 HR, 116 RBI and a .302 batting average make him the fourth best first basemen, the deepest position in fantasy baseball.
9. Prince Fielder – 1B – Milwaukee Brewers
Fielder’s inconsistent power dropped him to fifth among first basemen, but other factors (team, age, ability to maintain a solid average) are good enough to slot him in at No. 9 on my 2010 big board.
Fielder hit 28 HR in 2006, his first full season in the majors. 2007 saw a drastic jump to 50, while logging only four more at-bats. The 2002 first-round pick then hit 34 bombs in 2008, which was somewhat of a disappointment, relatively speaking. The 2009 campaign led to another spike in Fielder’s HR total, as the 25-year-old blasted 46 HR in route to setting career highs in RBI (141) and batting average (.299).
35 percent of Fielder’s HRs in 2009 qualified as ”just enough”, according to HitTrackerOnline.com, meaning 16 of his round-trippers barely made it over the fence. This total is slightly elevated, which suggests Fielder may have gotten more than his share of cheap shots.
This leads me to believe Fielder wont improve on his 46 HR total of 2009. Instead, I expect him to regress to about 40. The Milwaukee lineup is a potent one, however, so expect Fielder to have plenty of opportunities to drive in and score runs. As long as he can maintain a .280 average, (he’s a .284 career batter) Prince should fit in nicely as the ninth pick.
10. Evan Longoria – 3B – Tampa Bay Rays
After hitting 27 HR in just 122 games during his 2008 rookie season, Longoria put together an awe-inspiring 2009 campaign. The 24-year-old hit 33 HR, while scoring 100 runs and knocking in 113. The Rays’ third basemen maintained a respectable .281 batting average, and even stole nine bases despite his below-average speed.
What’s even more surprising is that Longoria ranked tenth in the majors with 44 doubles in 2009, suggesting he has yet to reach his power potential.
In fact, prior to the 2008 season, Baseball America claimed Longoria’s bat and power rated as 70 tools on the 20-80 scouting scale. They went on to predict Longoria would “hit .300 with 30-plus homers on an annual basis.” Compare this to his 2009 totals, and there’s even further evidence to suggest that Longoria has yet to reach his ceiling.
Everything points to Longoria improving upon in 2009 totals in 2010. I expect the 2006 third overall pick to near the 40-HR mark next season, while improving his numbers across the board as well. Longoria should be ranked No. 2 among third basemen, a position that is quickly becoming thin.