Fantasy Baseball Top 100: 1-20

Phew, I made it. After 11,667 words, the initial compilation of the top 100 fantasy baseball players is complete! Below are the final 20 pieces to the puzzle that is filled with familiar names, but not necessarily in the expected spots. I am confident with the rankings, though I have no doubt that many of you will have different takes on whom belongs where. I have tried to show my reasoning for each player’s position in the 100-word (or so) blurbs written about each player, but if you want more explanation for why someone is above or below someone, then please don’t hesitate to contact me at the email address found in the closing below. And now, the top 20:

20. Carlos Beltran – New York Mets, OF (31):
Beltran figured out lefties last year (.304), but then righties gave him trouble (.265). He put up a brilliant second half and though he is on the other of 30 years old, he is still a bona fide superstar. The 40-home run power of 2006 is unlikely to return, but 30-20 with 100 runs scored and driven in, each. Peripheral numbers point to a near .300 average, but he has yet to deliver that since he headed to the Big Apple. Look for him to finally get the extra base hits to reach the appropriate level and give his owners all five categories.

19. Johan Santana – Minnesota Twins (for now), SP (29):
He is still the best pitcher in the game regardless of which team he is on at the start of the season. Owners may have been disappointed by the 3.33 earned run average and the win-loss record, but they are likely idiots. He was still 7th in the American League in ERA and 2nd in strikeouts with the 15 wins good enough for 6th. If there was anything to worry about, it was the 33 home runs that was worst in the league, but then you consider he was still able to put up those numbers in spite of the bombs and the worry goes away quickly. Don’t get cute and try to take any other pitcher before him.

18. David Ortiz – Boston Red Sox, DH (32):
Offers the insane raw power of an Adam Dunn, but includes a sparkling .300 batting average. Despite losing 19 home runs off of his total from ’06, his power index didn’t match the drop meaning significant ground was not lost. The three steals tripled his career high making him a true 5-category threat! I couldn’t even type that with a straight face. He is, however, an excellent 4-category threat meaning you can safely ignore the limitations on position eligibility and take the huge numbers.

17. Ryan Braun – Milwaukee Brewers, 3B (24):
You couldn’t possibly script a better debut campaign if you tried. Braun’s first season was absolutely flawless from a fantasy baseball perspective… unless of course your league counts defense, in which case, yikes! I expect a slight regression, but a sophomore slump is unlikely based on last year. If he drops significantly anywhere, I could see it in the batting average, but he should still hit around .280. The age, power and speed at third base won’t be on the board for long and unlikely to be had cheaply, but the numbers justify the cost.

16. Ryan Howard – Philadelphia Phillies, 1B (28):
Puts up the numbers of David Ortiz with the ridiculously raw power, but trades a few batting average points for position eligibility and a few extra years. Figured out lefties during the MVP campaign of 2006, but lost it again last year, which was a big cause for the dip down to .268. If he jumps back up to into the .280s, he is back to being a 4-category guy. Even if not, pay for 50 home runs and enjoy!

15. Prince Fielder – Milwaukee Brewers, 1B (23):
Wow! How excited should we be about a 50-home run hitter that is just 23 years old? Extremely. If he continues to improve, we could see our first 60+ home run season since Barry Bonds’ 73 in 2001. And there’s more, he also has legitimate potential to hit .300 with the power. I realize that players are not completely in control of this, but I want to see more runs batted in out of Fielder before ranking him closer to the top 10.

14. Mark Teixeira – Atlanta Braves, 1B (28):
Big Tex left Texas for the National League and his power returned! He hit a home run per 22 at-bats with the Rangers in 78 games and then one per 12 at-bats with the Braves in 54 games. Had he not missed 30 games, he would have paced out to 37 home runs, but his Atlanta pace translates to 51 home runs. The 2006 power failure (by his standards) is the aberration, so the rejuvenation in Atlanta makes Tex an elite power source once again.

13. Brandon Phillips – Cincinnati Reds, 2B (26):
Remember when Phillips was one of baseball’s top prospects? It took him awhile, but he now cashing in on the potential and he is still only 26!!! He has back-to-back career years that are surprising because he had been left for dead, but not because he doesn’t have the talent to sustain. He is an excellent 5-category star at a relatively thin position. I’m giving Chase Utley the nod as the top second basemen only because of a deeper track record, but that may change as the winter evolves. Stay tuned.

12. Grady Sizemore – Cleveland Indians, OF (25):
I was huge on Sizemore for 2007, going so far as to name him my American League MVP. Well things didn’t quite pan out that way (though he did notch 15 MVP points), but he still had a great year. He gave back some home runs and average (despite figuring out lefties) in exchange for 11 more stolen bases, which was essentially a wash. I don’t think he is close to his ceiling with a 30-30 season on the horizon and possibly even this season. He is a true fantasy baseball cornerstone, both now and in the future.

11. Carl Crawford – Tampa Bay Rays, OF (26):
His past four seasons are a model for consistency and still Crawford is often somewhat underrated. He has the ability to add 20 home runs to the ridiculous speed and he nearly did in 2006. Watch some of those doubles get over the wall in 2008 as he creeps near that 20-mark again. Eventually, the speed will fade as he goes for more power, but it won’t happen this season. There is nothing to dislike about what Crawford brings to the table, bid high.

And down the stretch we come…

10. Matt Holliday – Colorado Rockies, OF (28):
Prior to the 2007 season, I dealt a $20 Holliday for $5 Jeremy Hermida, $5 Troy Tulowitzki and $9 Dave Bush. Whoops. He nearly outhit the two, trailing them by six home runs and 25 runs batted in while crushing them batting average: .293 to .340, plus he only used up one roster spot! I mentioned it in Tulowitzki’s profile and I’ll do so again, who cares if he benefits greatly from playing in Coors Field? His OPS on the road is .860 against 1.157 at home, but all of the numbers count equally meaning Holliday is a fantasy baseball beast. A .300-40-130 season could be in store for his owners in 2008.

9. Miguel Cabrera – Detroit Tigers, 3B (25):
I think the trade to the Detroit Tigers pumped him up five-to-seven spots as he joins one of the league’s best lineups and leaves one of the worst. He is reported to be in shape after weight was a problem in ’07 meaning he could be ready for an MVP season in Motown. The lineup around him will take care of the runs scored and batted in, while he does the rest en route to a .310-120-40-150-5 season. Can you believe he is only 25? Dang, it’s good to be a Tigers fan!

8. Alfonso Soriano – Chicago Cubs, OF (32):
I can’t figure out why early mock drafts are seemingly down on Soriano in 2008. In one draft, I saw him slip to 17th, while I got him 12th in a 20-team early mock. He is just two years removed from the 40-40 season. Now, I don’t mention that because I see another in ’08 because he simply won’t run enough in Chicago, especially if he drops in lineup, but rather to point out that he is still a superstar. He dropped 33-19 in 135 games, which is a 40-23 pace in a full season. He has a very reliable skill set that is hard not to love. Even at 32, a 30-30 season is possible.

7. Chase Utley – Philadelphia Phillies, 2B (29):
A broken hand derailed another brilliant season, but he rebounded nicely leaving no warning signs moving into this season. The speed is declining, even if you extrapolate the steals over the entire season, but that is more than acceptable when you consider a .300-30-100 from second base. As I mentioned earlier, I am leaning towards giving Brandon Phillips the nod as the best second basemen, but Utley’s stronger track record, more power potential and higher run producing ceiling (125 RBIs a real possibility) allow him to hang onto the spot… for now.

6. Jimmy Rollins – Philadelphia Phillies, SS (29):
I didn’t create this list to pat myself on the back (see: Holliday, Matt), but in my main NL-Only league, my co-owner and I made Rollins our primary, big-salary target. Well imagine if we had kept Holliday, we might have finished higher than 6th place. He put everything together for an MVP season, managing a .296 average despite setting a major-league record for at-bats with 716. He gave his owners a 30-40 season from shortstop while scoring nearly 140 runs and driving nearly 100 more. It was a career-year, to be sure, but plenty of this is sustainable so don’t expect a huge drop off in ’08. He is going to score another boatload of runs with two teammates of his in the top 20, and still another in the top 50. Scariest thing? There are two more shortstops to come.

5. Albert Pujols – St. Louis Cardinals, 1B (28):
He had more nagging injuries than the guy in the game Operation which no doubt led to the “down” year he labored through in 2007. He played through the injuries (158 games played) meaning they weren’t serious, but they clearly took their toll as he dropped below 40 home runs for the first time in five years and didn’t offer his customary handful of steals (two all year). All of this could result in an undervalued (relative to his superstar colleagues) Pujols, which makes him an even stronger buy.

4. David Wright – New York Mets, 3B (25):
If your cornerstone draft pick or auction buy flops in April, look at Wright’s 2007 April before giving up: 90 at-bats, 22 hits (.244 average), zero home runs, six runs batted and three stolen bases. Ouch. Of course, he ended with a .325 average, 30 home runs, 107 runs batted in and 34 stolen bases. It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon and Wright’s MVP-worthy season is one of hundreds of examples of that idiom. Had he shown up in April, he might have notched baseball’s second 40-40 season in a row. Third base is pretty deep, but things get started with Wright and his Big Apple counterpart, who we’ll get to in a moment.

3. Jose Reyes – New York Mets, SS (24):
The most interesting thing about Reyes and his teammate from a moment ago is that they are 24 and 25, respectively. That is absurd. Reyes has developed some legitimate patience allowing him to get on base more, resulting in a career-high for stolen bases. He showed the power potential in 2006, but a 1st half power outage kept him from the 20-home run mark. The absurd speed alone makes him worth the premium paid, but the enormous runs scored totals and potential to give his owner 20 bombs nets him this top 3 ranking.

2. Hanley Ramirez – Florida Marlins, SS (24):
It is frightening to this that he could legitimately post a 35-60 season with a huge average and solid team-dependent offerings. For now, focus on the .300-30-50 season he delivered in 2007 despite a torn left labrum. He received surgery and he will be ready for Spring Training, but potential effects from the surgery is enough to hold back on predicting the 35-60 season, instead let’s sit back and just pray for it. Miguel Cabrera’s departure could sap some runs from his total, but a capable cast could pick up the slack and keep him near the 115-mark. With Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell successful in Boston, this trade is shaping up to truly be an even one.

1. Alex Rodriguez – New York Yankees, 3B (32):
Erased doubts that he is the game’s best player with a remarkable MVP campaign in 2007 and nothing suggests another such season isn’t forthcoming. It seems that it wasn’t a matter of whether or not A-Rod could put up those numbers, but rather whether or not he wanted to put up those numbers. He might have even posted a .320+ average had he continued his previous success against left-handers. The only possible scary thing about him is that even-numbered years haven’t been kind to him in his Yankee tenure, but that is more coincidental than anything else, bid high and bid confidently.

So there it is, folks, my top 100 fantasy baseball players. As most everything is, it will be subject to change, but I am confident with the initial offering. I worked and re-worked the opening list several times, so I will almost assuredly have four or five changes ready for you when version 2.0 is released later. For now, I hope you have enjoyed the time and effort that I put into the list and write-ups of each player. I do appreciate the feedback I have received thus far and welcome all of it. Some of you have sent specific questions about trades and draft picks for mocks that you’re in that don’t pertain to players in the top 100 and I’m completely fine with that. I aim to respond to any and all questions within 24 hours of their receipt. If you prefer email over commenting and don’t have the address it is as follows: sporer (at sign)

One final treat, here are three breakdowns of the Top 100 by the numbers:


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