Part 2 of my look at the top 24 players for the 2011 season.
19. Chase Utley, 2B, PHI – Placing Utley on this list was tough. After just 115 games last year, I think health is a valid concern, but as he pushes deeper into his 30s (32 next year) I am worried he will become similar to Chipper Jones in that he’s excellent when on the field, but how often will he be on the field? The injury concern was enough for me to bump him down to 19 because I’m aiming to mitigate risk with my early picks. You can’t win the draft in the first two rounds, but you can lose it.
18. Mark Teixeira, 1B, NYY – I am not going to overreact to the .256 batting average this past season because a) batting average is largely overrated and he was just a hit a week away (26 in all) from a .300 average and b) his other fantasy relevant numbers (R, HR, RBI for Teix) were right in line with what we have come to expect from Teix. His overwhelming consistency keeps him firmly in the top 24 despite the incredible depth at first base.
17. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, WAS – It is hard not to be impressed with the first five full seasons of Zimmerman’s career with just one down year (injury-riddled 2008 w/106 games played) and consistent 20+ homer power and ~.290 batting average in the other four. Once you factor in that he will be just 26 in 2011, his career line becomes even more impressive and the best may very well be ahead of him in the coming years. That combination of a very adequate floor (20 HR, 85 RBI, .280 AVG) and likely unreached ceiling (35-120-.320 perhaps?) makes him a very intriguing player next year.
16. Andrew McCutchen, OF, PIT – This is one of “my calls” in that the statistics alone don’t support Cutch over a host of other guys I could have included here, but I still chose him because I think 2010 (94 R, 16 HR, 56 RBI, 33 SB, .286 AVG) is far from his upside and pretty close to what could reasonably be considered his floor. An improvement season could yield a 20 HR, 40 SB, .300 AVG season which would definitely warrant this mid-2nd round rating. He may still be a year away from a true breakout, but I’d rather be a year early than a year late.
15. Josh Hamilton, OF, TEX – Don’t look so surprised. Honestly, Hamilton is fortunate to be ranked this highly. The .359 batting average was fueled by a gaudy .399 BABIP that almost certainly won’t be repeated in 2011. Mix in a massive injury risk and an unprecedented situation where someone has aged their body in a very unpredictable way and you have an early round that could absolutely blow up in your face. When he is healthy and playing, few are better, but you have a games played log of 90, 156, 89 and 133 since his comeback. Proceed with caution.
14. Roy Halladay, SP, PHI – The only other starting pitcher to crack the list, Halladay is the gold standard when it comes to mound men. Everyone expected him to crush it his first year in the National League and he did not disappoint in the least. Pitching is the single most volatile position in the game, but Halladay is quantifiable money in the bank. If any one pitcher could get me to break my “no pitchers drafted early” rule, it would be Halladay, not only because I like him quite a bit, but because he is unquestionably the best pitcher in baseball and like fine wine seems to get better with age (34 in 2011).
13. Matt Holliday, OF, STL – This is another high floor over high ceiling pick as Holliday is a bankable 100 runs, mid-20s home runs, 100 RBIs and .310 batting average year in and year out. If all the luck were to go into his favor for an entire season, he could push 30 homers with a .325 batting average and 110 in each of the counting stats, but in lieu of that he just keeps plugging away with a very capable line. The stolen bases may finally stop dropping (28, 14, 9 last 3 seasons), but they are far more likely to hold than reverse course back upward.