Fantasy Baseball Top 100: 21-40

I’m almost done with the complete release of my first version of the Top 100 with the second 20 found below. If I am unable to finish the final 20 by tomorrow night, then it might be delayed until Sunday because I will be away Friday & Saturday and I work 8-5 on Sunday. Even still, it’s only mid-January, so the pace is still fine. Thank you to all who have emailed and commented about the list. I have no problem with any and all comments, even if you disagree with a particular player’s inclusion and/or slotting. Here are players 21 through 40 (age in parentheses, as always):

40. Aramis Ramirez – Chicago Cubs, 3B (29):
Anytime you can post you put up 26 home runs and 101 runs batted in despite only 132 games, you’re pretty damn good. In fact, he has averaged exactly 30 home runs in each of his seven full seasons. Throw in a .300 average and you have one of the most elite third basemen in the game. He is still on the right said of 30 (but hits that age in late June of this season) and with a clean bill of health he could easily reach 35 home runs again.

39. Travis Hafner – Cleveland Indians, DH (30):
Hafner broke the four-year trend of improving power and run production with his worst year as a full-time player. I bet there are quite a few guys that would like their worst year to be 24 home runs and 100 runs batted in. He had real trouble getting under the ball with his highest groundball rate ever at 48%, which sapped the power as he lost 18 home runs off of his 2007 total. Obviously with this ranking, I am predicting a full rebound and I like him to return to the 35-40 home run area. The DH-only aspect of Hafner scares some off, but you draft talent and numbers and worry about position flexibility later.

38. Carlos Guillen – Detroit Tigers, SS/1B (32):
The move to first base is supposed to be a knee-saving move for Guillen and the Tigers and that clearly bodes well for his fantasy owners, too. He puts up corner-like numbers with shortstop eligibility making him an excellent fantasy option. He is no doubt the 4th-best shortstop behind the three R’s (Ramirez, Reyes and Rollins) and if he is able to play his third straight season of 150+ games, he will almost certainly put up 20-15 with a near .300 average.

37. Derrek Lee – Chicago Cubs, 1B (32):
In all of the mock drafts I have seen thus far, Lee is probably one of the most underrated stars going a round or two later than I think he is worth. He looked like the Lee of old in the second half with 16 home runs. Even in a down year for his power (22 total home runs), he was still one of the league’s best hitters with a .317 average. I like a full rebound to the career-high 2005 levels especially in that lineup.

36. Corey Hart – Milwaukee Brewers, OF (26):
I am pretty sure I mentioned early on in the rankings that I love power-speed combos. With playing time in hand, he broke out with 24 home runs and 23 stolen bases. But he didn’t stop there; he included a .295 average, 86 runs scored and 81 runs driven in making him a 5-category dream. Though he got significantly less patient in the 2nd half (4% walk rate against 10% in the 1st half), there really aren’t any red flags that suggest Hart was a fluke.

35. Adam Dunn – Cincinnati Reds, OF (28):
He has four straight 40-home run seasons under his belt include three in a row of exactly 40. Everyone knows his shortcomings with the batting average, but last year was a step forward at .264 and if he can avoid being the complete anchor in average that he was in ’05 and ’06 (.247 and .234, respectively) then he will be underrated. Bankable power like his makes him worth a pretty penny/top draft pick and if he can reach the levels that his expected batting averages suggest (.275+ area), his value will be just behind David Ortiz.

34. Victor Martinez – Cleveland Indians, C (29):
It seems that catcher is always thin for fantasy baseball purposes and it isn’t particularly surprising. It is the most demanding position in the game and teams will readily accept a light-hitting catcher that does everything else well. And even when catchers can hit well, they eventually move to another position to keep that bat fresh. Martinez is starting to make that transition with 30 games at 1st base last year, but for now, he is a catcher. With career highs in home runs (25) and runs batted in (114), he put up numbers fit for a corner infielder giving him enormous value at catcher. A .303 career average makes him a true three-category stud at the toughest position to fill.

33. Brian Roberts – Baltimore Orioles, 2B (30):
Roberts is a speed-average guy at a moderately scarce position. That is it, nothing more, nothing less. Unfortunately, he seems to want to be a 20-home run guy as well, but if that were going to be the case, it seems it would come at the expense of his batting average, as evidenced by the 2nd half of last year. Many are worried about the run scoring opportunities on the Tejada-less team, but I think he is good for at least 85 even if the O’s are as bad as advertised. However, it isn’t unrealistic to see another 100-run season given the ability of the hitters behind him (particularly the 3 M’s: Nick Markakis, Kevin Millar and Melvin Mora). His value gets a significant boost if he is traded to the Chicago Cubs.

32. Russell Martin – Los Angeles Dodgers, C (25):
I have already covered how rare it is to get much offensive production from the catcher spot of your roster, but it is rarer still to get speed with the production. Enter Russell Martin. He did 10-10 in limited duty in 2006 before stepping it up big time in 2007 with 19 and 21. Oh yeah, he also hit .293 and had 83 runs scored & runs batted in! At 25, he doesn’t have any legitimate wear and tear yet.

31. Nick Markakis – Baltimore Orioles, OF (24):
Many saw the potential after a strong 491 at-bats in 2006, but there wasn’t anything indicating the speed that came through in 2007 (18 stolen bases). He has the skills to be a .300-30-100 guy and the speed should stick around, especially on the O’s. Markakis’ run driving in potential will suffer if Roberts is dealt to the Cubs. Don’t speculate on the runs batted in portion of things and pay for the talent. After all, the Tampa Bay Rays were awful last year and two players were able to get over 90 runs batted in.

30. Alex Rios – Toronto Blue Jays, OF (27):
First it was the staph infection in 2006 and last year it was the Home Run Derby Curse, but two straight seasons have seen Rios’ power get derailed in second half. Even still, he has put together two straight excellent seasons of 5-category fantasy production. He has overtaken teammate Vernon Wells as the Blue Jays’ golden boy. I have no problem betting that he will put together two outstanding halves this season, because even when he doesn’t, he still puts up great numbers.

29. Magglio Ordonez – Detroit Tigers, OF (34):
Remember when the Tigers first acquired Ordonez as an ailing free agent that nobody wanted? Sure, they overpaid (five years, $75 million). I’m pretty sure even they would admit it, but they weren’t in a position of strength. They had to bring in a big name to get things started. He used his first season with the Tigers (2005) to get his legs back under him before putting up back-to-back excellent seasons including last year’s that saw him earn his first batting title (.363). Back-to-back seasons of 155 and 157 games suggest Ordonez is plenty healthy and that those aiming to acquire him this year should feel confident in another full, productive season. When you consider how much Detroit improved that lineup, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Ordonez set a career-high for runs batted in for the second straight season.

28. Eric Byrnes – Arizona Diamondbacks, OF (32):
Where did the 50 stolen bases come from? Who cares? More importantly, are they here to stay? He doubled his 2006 total and at age 32, it is a longshot bet that he will maintain the upturn. That said, another 25-25 season isn’t out of reach. He plays like a 26 year old, which could get him in trouble if he hurts himself, but it means he will keep is green-light for stealing. When he hit .267 in ’06, his peripherals said he was better, but when he hit .286, the numbers said he was lucky. Pay for a mid .270s and enjoy the power-speed combo.

27. B.J. Upton – Tampa Bay Rays, 2B/OF (23):
Upton is an incredible talent that seemed to play a bit over his head in 2007. While a carbon copy repeat is unlikely, I don’t see the power and speed escaping him, I just wouldn’t bet on a .300 average. He has numbers good enough to put him in your outfield, but lucky for you, you won’t have to since he is eligible at second base. Another 20-20 season is likely, but pairing him with someone like Adam Dunn could be dangerous for batting average.

26. Lance Berkman – Houston Astros, 1B/OF (32):
Berkman is just about as steady as they come with a pretty bankable set of numbers and though the batting average was slightly off of his .300 career average at .278, it was merely due to a slow start that he corrected with a brilliant second half. Many owners probably jettisoned Berkman after a first half with just 11 home runs and a .261 average, but he rewarded the new owners as well as the patient ones with a robust 23 home runs and .293 average in the second half. Paying for another .300-30-100 season would be the smart play here.

25. Ichiro Suzuki – Seattle Mariners, OF (34):
Ichiro remains the go-to guy for setting up a team’s batting average and speed at the beginning of a draft or auction. He is aging quite gracefully making another .300-30-100 season almost a guarantee. Of course, his 30-100 comes in steals and runs scored as opposed to the common implication of that idiom (30 home runs and 100 runs batted in).

24. Curtis Granderson – Detroit Tigers, OF (27):
The futility against lefties (.160) is troublesome, but you can’t deny the tremendous across-the-board production. If he has able to remedy that problem, then he could actually improve on his record breaking season of 2007. I doubt he will learn lefties overnight, but rather take a small step against them. Of course, he might not torch right-handers to the tune of .337 again, so his gain against lefties will likely offset a regression against righties. The improvements to the lineup offer Granderson the potential to lead the league in runs scored while putting up another 20-20 season.

23. Vladimir Guerrero – Los Angeles Angels, OF (32):
It was another superstar season for Guerrero though he missed the 30-home run mark for the first time since 2003, despite the fact that he played a full season (unlike in ’03). His 125 runs driven in were good enough for 3rd in the American League and it isn’t out of line to foresee growth in ’08 given the improved lineup. Of course, that is largely dependent on the guys in front of him. Regardless of how they perform, Guerrero is sure to put up another season of All-Star numbers worthy of plenty of your auction dollars or one of your top picks.

22. Carlos Lee – Houston Astros, OF (31):
Like his partner in crime Lance Berkman, Lee is extraordinarily consistent with the numbers he brings to your team. Do you want .300-30-100-100-10? Buy or draft Lee. There is little to no variance across Lee’s stat lines over the past five years. In a project where the goal is to predict the future, as in fantasy baseball, a lack of statistical variance is absolutely a good thing. He also shows up daily for you, which again, is very nice since it eliminates pesky guesswork. Lee has played fewer than 150 games just once since his rookie season of 1999.

21. Jake Peavy – San Diego Padres, SP (26):
I have done 24 write-ups since I last had to flip to the pitcher sections of my stat books. And after this one, I’ll only need that section once more (for what’s-his-name?). The reigning National League Cy Young winner has a skillset you can’t help but fall in love with, but then you factor in his favorable home park and you have the recipe for success. Peavy nabbed the illustrious Pitching Triple Crown in the National League by leading wins, strikeouts and earned run average. Even more impressive, he led the majors in strikeouts, earned run average and WHIP for what is, in my view, a stronger and more impressive Pitching Triple Crown. He costs a lot to roster, but once you get him, you know your staff is set and you can immediately get back to building your lineup.

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