Archive for ‘Top 24’

Monday: 01.3.2011

Comparing My Top 24 w/a Mock Draft, Part 2

Yesterday, I began looking at the players drafted in the first two rounds of a mock draft I’m hosting over at against my Top 24 list from earlier this Fall. I highlighted those players who didn’t make top my 24 yet found their way into the first two rounds of our draft while today I will look at the draft positions of my group of players.

I’ll start with the group that “hit” with a hit being someone who was either dead even in my list and draft position or +/- two spots. There were eight direct hits, seven of which came within the top 10 suggesting that the first round might not bring much surprise in your draft. A lot can and almost certainly will change from now until draft day, though. There were three others who were within the two pick margin. All three were favored the two spots by me as opposed to the drafters. Here is the list of 11 players:

PLAYER My List Draft Diff.
Pujols, A 1 1 0
Ramirez, H 2 2 0
Cabrera, M 3 3 0
Longoria, E 6 6 0
Votto, J 7 7 0
Cano, R 8 8 0
Rodriguez, A 9 9 0
Utley, C 19 19 0
Wright, D 11 13 2
Hamilton, J 15 17 2
Youkilis, K 20 22 2

Next is the group that drafters “overrated” in my eyes. That is they took them three or more picks higher than I had them rated. The most egregious example is a bit skewed because it’s Adrian Gonzalez and when I rated him 21st, he was with the San Diego Padres. He has since gone to the Boston Red Sox which will certainly constitute a bump in value, but I still don’t think I will have him 10th, which is where he ended up in our draft.

PLAYER My List Draft Diff.
Gonzalez, A 21 10 -11
Tulowitzki, T 12 4 -8
Gonzalez, C 10 5 -5
Teixeira, M 18 14 -4
Halladay, R 14 11 -3

I knew I was lower than most on Troy Tulowitzki, but I was still a bit surprised when he went 4th overall. My concerns with him are as follows:

…though he has three good seasons out of the four he has been in the league, he still hasn’t cracked 100 RBIs, he has only topped 11 stolen bases once and though his .290 career average is damn good, 2010 was his only season above .300 (he hit .315). Mix in significant injury risk as he has missed 40 and 51 games in two of the last three seasons and there is reason for concern with Tulowitzki.

I just think you are inheriting too much risk taking him that high. I understand that if you want him and you have the 4th pick, that is going to be your only shot so you have to take your guy, but I would play it safer. He is a dynamic talent, but he could be this year’s Matt Kemp/Joe Mauer first round flameout.

Similarly, I come in a bit lower on Carlos Gonzalez because despite his huge 2010 season, I think he is rife with risk like his teammate, albeit different risk tied mostly to the fact that this is the first season he has actually paid dividends on his prodigious minor league talent. Tread cautiously.

And finally, there was an 8-player group that could be tabbed as “underrated” as they were three or more picks away from my top 24 ranking. Of course, they are only underrated to me and those who agree with my rankings.

PLAYER My List Draft Diff.
McCutchen, A 16 45 29
Braun, R 5 18 13
Rios, A 24 35 11
Crawford, C 4 12 8
Holliday, M 13 21 8
Hernandez, F 22 28 6
Zimmerman, R 17 20 3
Kemp, M 23 26 3

Soooo let’s just say I like Andrew McCutchen a smidge more than the general populous at this point in the draft season. He went almost two and a half rounds after where I had him slotted. Now the first question would obviously be “why didn’t I take him?”. Well, I only had one real shot where I really could have gotten him and I decided to take Jose Reyes with the first pick in the 3rd round. Shortstop remains a wasteland again in 2011 and I felt like Reyes was a nice value at that point. When McCutchen fell throughout the remainder of the 3rd and deep into the 4th, I thought I was going to get him at the end of the round, but he went three picks before mine. I settled for Ichiro Suzuki.

My jaw about hit the floor with Ryan Braun’s descent into the mid-2nd round. As you are probably tired of hearing by now, I put a lot of consideration into how high a player’s floor is with my early picks and I think Braun has one of the higher floors while still maintaining an appealing ceiling making him one of the best early round picks. He was a steal at 18 by Jason Collette.

I would have much rather taken Matt Holliday than the first base run from the early 2nd round I discussed yesterday, but it wasn’t an egregious fall for Holliday as the players taken from my ranking of Holliday to his draft position are clustered pretty tightly together.

I promised news soon about my 2011 Starting Pitcher Guide and I wanted to get it out today, but it didn’t happen, so stay tuned. I should have some details out at some point this week. I think those of you who have read it the last three years are really going to enjoy this year’s version.

Tuesday: 11.9.2010

Top 24 for 2011 – Part 3

Part 3 of my look at the top 24 players for the 2011 season.

Part 1
Part 2

In the homestretch of my top 24 with the entire first round left. Remember when viewing these top 12 picks that a lot of my process involves the highest floors just as much as the highest ceilings. Sure, I want the guy who can explode for the transcendent season, but what I really want is the guy whose “bad” season is still pretty damn good (see also: Rodriguez, Alex).

12. Troy Tulowitzki, SS, COL – T3 (middle name Trever) is a very good player on the cusp of entering his prime and though he has three good seasons out of the four he has been in the league, he still hasn’t cracked 100 RBIs, he has only topped 11 stolen bases once and though his .290 career average is damn good, 2010 was his only season above .300 (he hit .315).  Mix in significant injury risk as he has missed 40 and 51 games in two of the last three seasons and there is reason for concern with Tulowitzki.  On the plus side, he will be just 26 years old next year, he has home run totals of 24, 27 and 32 in three of the last four seasons and he plays the thinnest position in fantasy baseball.  Don’t just extrapolate T3’s 2010 to a full season of at-bats when projecting him for 2011, that would be very dangerous.  He needed an otherworldly month of September that included 15 home runs and 40 RBIs to put up a full season’s worth of numbers in 122 games.  I would view his 2010 as a full season expectation for 2011.

11. David Wright, 3B, NYM – Well that’s more like it.  Wright’s 2010 season was back to what we have come to expect from the third baseman as he raised his power totals from 10 HR/72 RBI to 29 HR/103 RBI and the only real expense from 2009’s line was the stolen bases dropping from 27 to 19.  It was a great fantasy baseball season, but there are some concerns from a real life baseball standpoint in that he set a career-high in strikeouts at 161 (21 higher than last year’s career-high mark of 140) and his walk rate continued to tumble.  His 2007 peak of 13.2% has dropped yearly with the sharpest drop coming from 2009 to 2010 as he shaved off 1.7% to 10.3%, second-worst in his career.  For me, we are splitting hairs a bit to freak out on the latter as his 10.3% rate was still among the Nation League’s best (24th overall).  Wright remains a superstar in his prime and a few more strikeouts aren’t going to cut into his value much when he is putting as complete a line as he does, even if the stolen bases taper off to the 13-17 range.

10. Carlos Gonzalez, OF, COL – I am probably a little lower on him that most, but remember what I said back in Part 1 about not overrating the most recent season one way or another.  And like I mentioned again at the outset of this piece, a player’s floor is important to me, too.  As a 25-year old with one full season and just 319 games in all under his belt, would it surprise if Gonzalez seriously regressed from his breakout 2010 season?  His batting average was significantly inflated by a .384 BABIP (.355 career, .333 career-high before ’10)  and he enjoyed the 7th-best home run per flyball rate in baseball (20.4%) which masked a drop in flyballs from his 2009 mark.  All that said, he’s not some fluke scrub who came out of nowhere (3-time Baseball America top 32 prospect: 32, 18, 22 from 2006-2008) so just because I’m entertaining the notion that he could regress significantly, I am not saying it’s 100% that he will.  If pressed for a stat line on his 2011 season, I would be somewhere in the neighborhood of .291 AVG, 98 R, 26 HR, 102 RBI, 22 SB.  He still cracks the top 12 with ease because his ceiling is a season that matches or even exceeds 2010, he is that talented.

9. Alex Rodriguez, 3B, NYY – A-Rod has started on the slow decline that is the twilight of his career, but even a pair of his worst seasons are good as many players out there.  The batting average dipped (.270) to the lowest it has been since 1995 when he wasn’t yet a full time player, but he still banged out 30 HR and 125 RBI in 137 games.  With just four stolen bases on seven tries, the end may be here for A-Rod as a runner, but he may have another sneaky 12 SB season in him once 100% healthy again.  I think 2010 serves as his floor for the next 2-3 years though .300 and 35 are both in play in everything breaks in his favor in a given a year.  You’re not drafting A-Rod for upside anymore, you’re taking him to mitigate early round risk and have a bankable stat line from your first round pick.

8. Robinson Cano, 2B, NYY – All the raving about Cano’s 2010 season has me a bit puzzled.  It’s not that I don’t believe he deserves accolades for a brilliant season, it’s that I’m wondering where these plaudits were last year.  Essentially Cano’s stock has risen significantly thanks to 24 RBIs and 27 walks because outside of those two improvements, his 2010 was the same as his 2009.  Cano is a 4-category superstar in the midst of his prime and he is worthy of your first round pick.  I think he’s a first rounder on his numbers alone as he doesn’t really gain much from position scarcity.  There is this perception that second base is thin, but just as I did last year, I think it is one of the deeper positions even once you get past Cano, the 18th ranked Chase Utley and a healthy Dustin Pedroia.

7. Joey Votto, 1B, CIN – If I may pat myself on the back for a moment, one of my big predictions for 2010 was that Votto would hit 35 home runs and knock in 120.  He hit 2 more home runs and knocked in just seven less.  I am happy to say I was firmly entrenched on Votto bandwagon and took him well above his third round (29th overall) ADP last year in two separate leagues.  But enough about me because let’s be honest, no one gives a damn about me & my leagues.  I love Votto again for 2011, but be careful if you’re betting on a repeat season.  His home run boost was driven by a major league best 25% HR per flyball rate.  He was at 18% the two years before so he is scheduled for a regression especially considering that he actually coupled the major HR/FB rate with a 4% drop in his flyball rate.  He is more of a 30 HR hitter and there is nothing wrong with that.  Especially when you are hitting .320+ with 100+ runs scored & driven in.  I realize first base is really deep, but that mean that you should ignore the immense star power and take a lesser player just because they play a more scarce position.

6. Evan Longoria, 3B, TB – On the surface, Longoria’s 2010 season might feel like a disappointment.  It is probably because he was a chic MVP pick, but then by season’s end his home run total had dropped by 11 from 2009 to “just” 22.  So he didn’t have the career year many expected (including yours truly), but he was hardly anything close to a failure.  Remember that we are in a different era for offense and 22 home runs is legitimate once again.  Yes, his 33 HR season was excellent, but his 22 HR season was still very good; the total was good for 7th-most among all third basemen.  Longoria has put together three brilliant seasons and he is still a year away from his prime meaning we likely haven’t seen his best.

5. Ryan Braun, OF, MIL – Here is another great example of the high floor theory I am talking about.  The 2010 season was Braun’s worst, but there was nothing bad about it as he hit .304 with 25 HR, 103 RBI, 101 R and 14 stolen bases.  When your lowest OPS in four seasons is .866, you are an awesome player.  That is exactly what Braun is and at age 27, he is either a year into or just starting his prime depending on what range you consider the prime to be for a player.  An underrated factor to Braun’s greatness is his sustained health.  He has played 151, 158 and 157 games the last three years and he played 113 of 118 possible games in his rookie season after coming up in late May.  That kind of reliability is hard to find these days so that definitely earned Braun an extra boost in these rankings.

4. Carl Crawford, OF, FA – The biggest free agent hitter available this offseason, I don’t feel like Crawford’s value will move much one way or another based on his new home.  Crawford has always been a speed/batting average superstar with a smattering of power, but since moving down to the 2-3 spots in the lineup, he has become a legitimate five category stud and there is no reason to believe he won’t continue to play that way for the next 2-3 years at the very least.  He is averaging .299 AVG, 13 HR, 70 RBI, 93 R and 50 SB the last eight years despite the inclusion of a washed out 2008 season where he played just 109 games thanks to injuries.  Crawford was inexplicably outside of the top 12 in ADP last year (15th overall), but there is no way he will end up there this year.

3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B, DET – This is not a homer pick, not in the slightest.  Cabrera is .320-34-120 in the bank and it doesn’t matter what position you are getting those numbers at, they are elite.  His stability is even better than Braun’s as Cabrera has averaged 158 games in seven seasons since becoming a full-time player.  That is pretty much unheard of in today’s game.  With so many seasons in the .320-34-120 range, it isn’t farfetched to believe that Cabrera has a career year where he goes .330-45-140 in his holster still.  Again, I don’t really care that he plays at the deepest position in the game, when the numbers are that good and that consistent and the player is still in his prime, he is automatically a top 5 pick.

2. Hanley Ramirez, SS, FLO – When you look Ramirez’s stat line from 2010, it is easy to say he disappointed, but did he really?  No, he wasn’t the 2nd-best player in baseball as he was drafted to be, but anyone who thinks they can predict exactly where a player will finish in any given year is ridiculous.  You first round player is picked that high because you are expecting a high quality, minimal variance stat line that will serve as the beginning foundation for your team.  If they happen to finish exactly where you drafted them in the overall rankings, that is a bonus; not an expectation.  A big reason that Ramirez is draft so highly is because of the scarcity at shortstop and all he did last year was hit for the 2nd-best average among shortstops (.300), deliver the most stolen bases (32), score the 2nd-most runs (92), hit the 4th-most home runs (21) and drive in the 5th-most runs (76) despite playing a career-low 142 games.  I wouldn’t criticize anyone taking Ramirez first overall, but for me we have seen his career year (2007) and while he probably has at least one more 30+ home run season in him, I doubt he has any more 50+ stolen base ones.

1. Albert Pujols, 1B, STL – Why try to fix what isn’t broken?  I am not sure how anyone but Pujols could occupy the top spot until he gives us a discernible reason to replace him.  One of his nicknames is “The Machine” and he continues to live up to it year in and year out with incredible numbers.  I hope we don’t have to sit through another offseason hearing about his balky elbow and how this is now the year that it will catch up to him.  Maybe it is, but until he falters from his perch as the best in the game, he deserves to be picked first in just about any league format you can create.  Even with a middling supporting cast, Pujols managed to lead the league in runs scored and driven in because when you are the best, your supporting cast doesn’t matter.

Thursday: 11.4.2010

Top 24 for 2011 – Part 1

With the MLB season officially completed on Monday night, we can start looking ahead to the 2011 season and how the top players line up. This season was as interesting as any in recent history because the movement among the top players was heavy. A lot of young players had excellent seasons while some of the old guard faltered just a bit creating openings within the top 24.

How much stock can you put into any one season for better or worse? Obviously a lot of players will make many of their decisions off of the 2010 season which is dangerous game. I fell into that trap last year when overrating both Matt Kemp & Joe Mauer, who both fell flat on their faces in 2010. Though I will consider 2010 a lot in making my decisions about who belongs in the top 24, I will also strongly consider a player’s track record & career trajectory based on age and health.

Make no mistake that my process has always combined the previous season with the track record & career trajectory analysis of a player when deciding where they should go in the following season, but I fell in love with Mauer’s excellent season leading me to put him in the first round in the initial iteration of this article last year. As spring approached and drafts/auctions began, I tempered my Mauer love realizing the error of my ways with respect to him as a first rounder.

With Kemp, I expected improvement on his stellar 2009 season, but instead he regressed back to a slightly lesser version his 2008 line which is still pretty good, but most certainly a face plant considering where he went in most drafts. Neither he nor Mauer truly tanked the teams of fantasy owners who drafted them, though they did severely disappoint given the cost to said owners. Kemp will actually just be entering his prime in 2011 so if the .249 average and 19 stolen bases (after back-to-back years with 30+) tank his value then he could be something of a sleeper of the early rounds a la Josh Hamilton in 2010.

The uncertainty at the top given the surging results of the new guard combined with the lagging results of the old guard create the potential for Kemp/Mauer situations in a list looking at next year’s top 24, but I will be cognizant of that and you will see it with the ranking of a few such players. With all of that said, let’s get to the double dozen.

24. Alex Rios, OF, CWS/Shin-Soo Choo, OF, CLE – There just isn’t much difference between these two so I decided to slot both of them in at the 24th spot, but I could have just as easily expanding the list to 25 players. Looking at their 2010 lines shows Rios with a stolen base edge and Choo with a batting average edge. Personally, I’d take the former, but in terms of overall value it’s splitting hairs. Choo is also a little younger, though, so there may be a shred more upside with him. On the whole, there isn’t much separating these two AL Central outfielders so I’ve got them tied for the end of the 2nd round.

23. Matt Kemp, OF, LAD – No, Kemp did not live up to his draft slot this year and yes, he did hit a dismal .249, but he wasn’t waiver wire fodder. He ripped a career high 28 home runs. His runs scored, driven in and stolen bases all fell precipitously, but his totals of 82, 89 and 19 in those categories didn’t kill anyone’s team. And he has been as reliable as any player in recent memory in terms of playing time logging 155, 159 and 162 games the last three years. To top it all off, he will be 26 this year and could finally put up the monster 30-30 year everyone was looking for this year.

22. Felix Hernandez, SP, SEA – Let’s get one thing straight: I don’t take starting pitchers in the first two rounds. However, just because I personally avoid the risk associated with them doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen and I will cover them in this list because there are a few who deserve to be mentioned. King Felix is a workhorse superstar with five straight seasons of 30+ starts including back-to-back Cy Young worthy seasons. Now here’s the jaw-dropper: he will be 25 years old next year. With a 2.25 ERA and 1.06 WHIP in 250 innings, Hernandez likely won’t improve his numbers next year, but taking a pitcher this early is in an investment in stability in a ridiculously unstable market.

21. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, SDP – I realize first base is deep, everyone realizes it, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be taken early. A handful of first basemen made this list starting with Gonzalez. A lot of his presence on this list has to do with consistency. He’s .280-30-100 in the bank with ceiling for more, as evidenced by his 40-home run season back in 2009. The lineup around him stifles the runs scored and even the runs driven in to a point given his incredible power should probably be yielding closer to 110 RBIs or more. The fact that San Diego was in contention right down to the wire last year could compel them to go out and make stark improvements to their lineup which would only help A-Gonz and of course if their fortunes go the other way, he could be dealt.

20. Kevin Youkilis, 3B/1B, BOS – He managed just 102 games in 2010 thanks to a thumb injury that eventually required surgery, but the injury should have no lasting effects in 2011 and thus he makes the list with ease. He might not quite make it with 1B-only on his resume, but the 3B eligibility for Youk is a prime asset. High 20s power and a .300 average go well together and they go even better with 90+ runs scored and driven in on a potent team like the Red Sox. Youkilis is going to miss games at various points in the season which hurts his value in a head-to-head formats, but as long as he keeps putting up a full season’s line in his 140-145 games, then he has at least another year or two among the elite.

Next: 19-13

Tuesday: 01.20.2009

Top 24 First Basemen: 12-1

Here is the completion of my top 24 first basemen for 2009.

Part 1

12. Carlos Pena, 31, Tampa Bay Rays – There was a group of people that believed Pena would be a flop after his huge 2007 season. After his first half, they were looking spot on, but he became a catalyst for the Rays’ second half run en route to a 20 home run performance. Pena is your regular WYSIWYG kind of guy and you can just about bet on .250/30/100 for the foreseeable future. OBP leaguers give Pena a boost with his stellar walk rate increasing his value markedly. Pena is the kind of guy that is skipped over round after round because there isn’t much perceived upside with him, but 2007 proved that he can get on a roll and have a top tier season.

11. Derrek Lee, 33, Chicago Cubs – EVERY capsule about Lee this season immediately references 2005 and I’m afraid I can’t break the trend. That season is now clearly an outlier that will never be reached again. He might still have another 30-home run outburst in his bat, but realistically he’s a mid-20s home run hitter with big average and big runs & RBIs totals. He used to be a perennial double-digit basestealer, but his past two full seasons have yielded just six and eight, respectively. Still, you like the added steals from an unexpected source. Lee’s name usually combines with memories of 2005 to take him off the board well before he should so make sure you avoid that pitfall and don’t pass up better production with lesser names.

10. Joey Votto, 25, Cincinnati Reds – He had a Derrek Lee-lite season last year with depressed totals in runs scored & driven in thanks to his spot in the lineup and a lesser lineup than Lee’s Cubs. He actually bounced all around the lineup, but the 7-hole was his home most often. He will assuredly move up this season which will allow him to be the full version of Lee, but likely cheaper since he isn’t as well known… yet. What makes him better than Lee is that he is on the upswing while Lee has plateaued. With a great home stadium, he should still manage the mid-20s power despite such a high groundball rate (44%). The upside is a .300-90-30-100-10 season so don’t be afraid to go the extra dollar to get him.

9. Adrian Gonzalez, 27, San Diego Padres – Can you imagine if he was still in Texas? Instead he’s stuck in the anti-Coors which severely caps his ceiling. After hitting 21 home runs through June, he managed just 10 across July and August as the Padres played 32 of their 55 games at home. That said he is still a bankable 30-100 hitter with a nice batting average. He has dropped yearly against lefties which keeps him from a perennial .300, but his .280 is still quite useful. It appears as though the fences will be moved in at Petco which can only help Gonzalez in his quest to tame the stadium, but pay for 30-100 and if you get the 2008 bonus again, enjoy it.

8. Kevin Youkilis, 30, Boston Red Sox – Here is why I don’t think the 13 home run increase from Youk was a fluke: his walk rate fell by 3% and I believe a lot of that was him going for solid pitches that he ended up being able to do a lot with earlier in the count. Known as the Greek God of Walks, I think in past seasons he was waiting for the perfect pitch or just taking a walk. To wit, he had 15 home runs after a 1-0 count against just seven in 2007. I feel like another 25+ home run season rests on Youk’s shoulders as he decides whether or not he wants to take that approach again this season. As part of that lineup, his counting stats will be excellent as well. He’s one to chase.

7. Justin Morneau, 28, Minnesota Twins – The home runs per flyball rate dropped well off of his career norms so it cut into the home run totals, but the 97 runs, 129 RBIs and .300 batting average helped alleviate the sting. This is a guy that is getting better and becoming an elite producer at first base as seemingly no one notices. With three straight seasons of 590+ at-bats owners can have confidence that he will always be out there for them. With a correction in the hr/f rate, he could repeat the 2008 season with six or seven extra home runs.

6. Prince Fielder, 25, Milwaukee Brewers – The 50 home runs from 2007 was supported by an unsustainable hr/f rate (24%). The 46% clip at which he hit flyballs was unprecedented before and unmatched after which also aided the drop in home run output. Even still, Fielder is a legitimate power source nearly guaranteed for a mid-30s home run output with a real shot in any given year to get back to 50. To have full seasons of 28, 50 and 34 home runs entering your age 25 season is truly remarkable. It is not unrealistic to imagine sustainable growth, but set your expectations for 35-110 to prevent yourself from overpaying.

5. Lance Berkman, 33, Houston Astros – Don’t bring up Berkman’s name around head-to-head fantasy players. He had a disgusting .365-72-22-68-12 first half of the season followed by a dismal .252-45-7-38-6 second half. That enormous drop-off prevented Berkman from reversing a declining home run trend that started back in 2006. Don’t buy the 2008 speed for 2009, but this is still an excellent skillset capable of .300-30-100. He will offer 6-8 stolen bases and should score at least 100 runs with Carlos Lee and Hunter Pence behind him. The second half might have left a sour enough taste in your league to depress Berkman’s value relative to other studs, bid accordingly if you’re in such a league.

4. Mark Teixeira, 29, New York Yankees – He has plateaued at 30-100 since the monster 43-home run season back in 2005, but combined with a reliable .300 average and a ton runs makes him an elite commodity. Heading to New York should bode well for both the runs scored and runs driven in totals, while the new Yankee Stadium remains an unknown in terms of its affect on home runs. His new residence is likely to drive the price up, but don’t get caught up in the hysteria and treat like anything but the 4th-best first baseman in the league. It doesn’t get much more reliable than Teixeira so there is nothing wrong with making a part of your team’s foundation.

3. Ryan Howard, 29, Philadelphia Phillies – Howard is as elite as it gets when it comes to power production. The batting average has left something to be desired since the MVP campaign, but when you are getting those home run and RBI totals, it is hard to complain. A sharp drop in walk rate didn’t help much when he was in prolonged slumps, but that should return in 2009. He is quite streaky so H2H-leaguers beware when bidding. The fact of the matter is he has 58, 47 and 48 home runs in his past three seasons with a ton of RBIs and about 100 runs scored per as well. All of that without being a complete liability in batting average helps make Howard one of the best of the game.

2. Miguel Cabrera, 26, Detroit Tigers – If I put Cabrera ahead of Albert Pujols, it would look like little more than homersim, so I avoided the temptation. Well that and I’m not entirely sold that he belongs there so I wasn’t going to do it just for the sake of doing it. He absolutely dominated the league in the second half of 2008 and it clear that he is fully acclimated to the American League now. What is the ceiling for this guy? He has increased his home run and RBI totals yearly since 2006 and he could be headed for another jump after last year’s 37/127 effort. Make no mistake; he is a late first round talent for 2009.

1. Albert Pujols, 29, St. Louis Cardinals – Who can you say about Pujols that hasn’t been said? He is just so amazing year after year. He hasn’t put up especially gaudy home run and RBI titles the past two seasons, but the insane batting average he posts yearly separates him from the pack. He hasn’t hit below .330 since 2002 including last year’s .357. I love Hanley Ramirez as much as anyone else, but I have no qualms with making Pujols the #1 overall pick in a scratch draft. It is frightening to think that he could actually improve on last year and get back to 2006 levels. Letting him go any deeper than fourth overall is a crime and at fourth, that owner is getting a steal.

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