If you’ve been pondering in math class and lunch breaks whether to take that already-proven-star-studded-bopper or that next young phenom with limitless potential in the first round, snap out of it. The key to success in fantasy baseball is simple. Draft dependable in the first round, draft closers extremely late, and pay close attention to the box scores every day to discover this year’s sleepers.
1. Albert Pujols: Pujols hit 47 home runs with 135 RBI’s and a .327 batting average last season. The frightening part is, this “fantasy workhorse” put up these MVP-like numbers without any protection in the lineup. With an improved Cardinal lineup with Matt Holliday slated to bat behind Pujols, his numbers should (gulp) get even better.
2009- AB 568 R 124 HR 47 RBI 135 BB 115 K 64 SB 16 AVG .327 OBP .443 SLG .658 OPS 1.101
2. Hanley Ramirez: Ramirez is entering the prime of his career and it doesn’t hurt that he is a five-tool talent. Last year he flaunted that by scoring 101 runs, hitting 24 home runs with 106 RBIs and a .342 batting average. What should make you salivating over Ramirez is that he swiped 27 bases last season and plays shortstop – one of the hardest positions to get production from, which increases his fantasy value exponentially.
2009- AB 576 R 101 HR 24 RBI 106 BB 61 K 101 SB 27 AVG .342 OBP .410 SLG .543 OPS .954
3. Ryan Braun: Braun is the most complete and consistent fantasy player available after Pujols. His 20 stolen bases, .342 batting average, 114 RBIs, and 32 home runs last season will speak to that. What’s more impressive is that the only fantasy player to put up similar numbers at his age is Pujols. If Braun didn’t play in pitcher-friendly Miller Park, he could be the top fantasy player.
2009 AB 635 R 113 HR 32 RBI 114 BB 57 K 121 SB 20 AVG .320 OBP .386 SLG .551 OPS .937
4. Chase Utley: Utley is in a league of his own when it comes to second base. After proving hip surgery wouldn’t slow him down – he was supposed to miss the first two months of the season – he recovered quickly enough to play in spring training and 156 games during the year. In those games, Utley blasted 31 home runs, and posted a career high in stolen bases with 23. Not too shabby for a guy with a less than perfect hip.
2009 AB 571 R 112 HR 31 RBI 93 BB 88 K 110 SB 23 AVG .282 OBP .397 SLG .508 OPS .905
5. Alex Rodriguez: Rodriguez played 124 games in 2009 – his fewest since his rookie year in 2005 – and still put up astonishing numbers. Last season marked the 12th consecutive season in which he mashed 30 home runs and 100 RBIs. You shouldn’t expect anything different from Rodriguez in 2010. Playing in “hitter-friendly” Yankee Stadium and already slaying his demons of October’s past will enhance his fantasy value.
2009 AB 444 R 78 HR 30 RBI 100 BB 80 K 97 SB 14 AVG .286 OBP .402 SLG .532 OPS .933
6. Joe Mauer: With the ink still wet from an 8-year, 184 million dollar deal, Mauer can throw the Minnesota “media monkey” off his back and concentrate on playing baseball. Mauer, 27, plays catcher – undoubtedly the hardest position to get steady productivity out of in fantasy baseball, but that’s exactly what you get from Minnesota’s hometown hero. Mauer crushed 28 home runs with 96 RBIs with a league-leading .365 batting average, despite missing the first month of the season.
2009 AB 523 R 94 HR 28 RBI 96 BB 76 K 63 SB 4 AVG .365 OBP .444 SLG .587 OPS 1.031
7. Prince Fielder: Fielder catapulted his fantasy value after he crowned 46 home runs and led the league with 141 RBIs last season. The 25-year-old slugger has bettered his RBI and batting average productivity since arriving onto the scene in 2006. The apparent heir finished top-10 in the league in almost every offensive category and should be a bona fide first-round pick in fantasy baseball until his reign is over.
2009 AB 591 R 103 HR 46 RBI 141 BB 110 K 138 SB 2 AVG .299 OBP .412 SLG .602 OPS 1.014
8. Justin Upton: Upton is young. Real young. And talent oozes out of the 2005 No. 1 overall draft pick who has lived up to all the hype and blossomed into one of the game’s brightest young stars. Upton became a member of the exclusive 20 homerun, 20 stolen bases club and batted .300 despite early season struggles. At 23-years-old he should continue to improve.
2009 AB 526 R 84 HR 26 RBI 86 BB 55 K 137 SB 20 AVG .300 OBP .366 SLG .532 OPS .899
9. Tim Lincecum: If you’re going to select a pitcher in the first-round of a fantasy draft, you better make sure they have “freakishly nasty stuff” and mow down every batter in their sights. Tim Lincecum, please stand up. Lincecum has won the past 2 NL CY Young Awards, given to the top pitcher in each league. You can sharpie in Lincecum for being at the top of the list for strikeouts, ERA, WHIP, K/9, and wins among pitchers.
2009 G 32 GS 32 IP 225.1 BB 28 K 261 W 15 S 0 HD 0 ERA 2.48 WHIP 1.05 K/9 10.42
10. Matt Kemp: Kemp does it all. He scores, hits for average and power, and runs. The 25-year-old right-hander has skyrocketed up the fantasy charts after putting up 26 home runs, snagging 34 bases, and knocking in 101 RBIs while hitting all over the Dodger lineup. Kemp should see more at-bats because he will be hitting at the core of the Dodger’s order, giving him an opportunity to put up scary-good fantasy numbers.
2009 AB 606 R 97 HR 26 RBI 101 BB 52 K 139 SB 34 AVG .297 OBP .352 SLG .490 OPS .842