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OK, OK, I know what you’re thinking. Why the hell am I doing a draft preview for baseball now? Well frankly, I can do what I want but, that’s not the point. Let’s not lie to ourselves. As soon as the regular season ended, you were already planning your first round draft pick for next season. Well I was anyway. Even before that, if your team was not in a fantasy playoffs, you were thinking of the ways you would do things differently. If you haven’t, then let me give you my thought proess for who I think should be the top 12 picks in the 2009 draft.
This is of course before players are traded or when they join new teams via free agency.
#1. Albert Pujols (1B), St. Louis Cardinals: Fantasy owners drafting back in March were turned off by the threat of Albert Pujols’ elbow tearing even further and needing surgery. Well, the elbow held up for the entire season and Pujols finished with a .357 AVG, 37 HR, 116 RBI to go with .462 OBP and .653 SLG. To put it bluntly, Pujols was the best fantasy player of 2008. He did not start off hot and fizzle out or catch fire at just the end of the season. He was consistently the best player out there and has regained his status as #1 player in fantasy baseball.
#2. Hanley Ramirez (SS), Florida Marlins: Ah, my baby boy. Hanley’s season was typical Hanley-esque. There were no holes in his offense as he continued to develop his power stroke and was still a threat on the basepaths. Although his average dipped a bit from 2007 (.332 to .301), his number of walks spiked significantly (52 to 92). As a result, he scored 125 runs. He broke 30 home runs for the first time in his young career and stole 35 bases. Rarely can you get a SS in the 30-30 club. Hanley is arguably a #1 pick.
#3. Alex Rodriguez (3B), New York Yankees: A-Rod hit the DL for the first time since 2000 with a strained right quad. His numbers didn’t represent that of a man who missed time. He hit 35 HR and drove in 105 RBI in 138 games. He struggled at the end of the season when he hit .243 in August and .278 in September and in that time he only stole three bases (as compared to the previous months when he stole 16). Don’t let that bother you though, in a full season, A-Rod is good for at least 20 stolen bases. Speed and natural power, A-Rod can do it all.
#4. David Wright (3B), New York Mets: The best looking man in baseball reached career highs in HR (33), RBI (124), and runs scored (115). His walks were plentiful (94) and he stole 15 bases. He has given consistent numbers for the past four years and each year he is showing improvement in his offense. He is another young player who has just come into his prime and another increase in numbers including a run at the 30-30 club is not out of the question.
#5. Matt Holliday (LF), Colorado Rockies: Considering he missed 23 games with a DL stint for his hamstring and several back spasms, Holliday produced good numbers with a .321 AVG, 25 HR, and 88 RBI. He recorded 100+runs for the third straight season and had a career high in walks (74) and OBP (.409). Did anyone else notice that he stole 28 bases as well? If Holliday keeps up his new fondness for base-stealing, then he can be another one of the 30-30 club members in ’09.
#6. Jose Reyes (SS), New York Mets: Reyes’ SB numbers fell from last season from 78 to 56. I know 56 is still a lot but, when a player drops 22 stolen bases, you should take some notice. That isn’t to say Reyes has lost all his vlaue. Not even close. Reyes is still a lead-off hitter in a great offense which ensures plenty of runs scored. He crossed the 200-hit plateau for the first time in his career in 2008 and is still only 25 years old, which means he hasn’t even hit his prime yet.
#7. Lance Berkman (1B,RF), Houston Astros: After an incredibly hot start (.347/22 HR/73 RBI pre-break), Berkman hit tough times with a .266 July and a .171 September. His overall numbers were impressive with 29 HR, 106 RBI, and 114 R. Berkman is always a threat for 100 R, 30 HR, and 100 RBI. He is also an on-base machine with a career OBP of .413. Playing in hitter-friendly Minute Maid Park doesn’t hurt either.
#8. Miguel Cabrera (1B,3B), Detroit Tigers: Cabrera was supposed to be the best player in the AL, according to the hype that surrounded his move from the Marlins. However, people are overlooking his great contribution to the fantasy world in 2008. Cabrera reached career highs in HR (37) and RBI (127). He also hit a more than respectable .292. OK, so he wasn’t the best player on earth and didn’t propel the Tigers to a first place finish. If you can’t find happiness in his monster power numbers (in Comerica Park by the way), then you are just too damn picky.
#9. Chase Utley (2B), Philadelphia Phillies: Utley put up his 4th straight 100+ RBI season (104) and blasted 33 HR. His power dipped a bit in the 2nd half but his AVG and OBP were better. If you want a consistent flow of power and RBI from a shallow position such as 2B, then Utley is your man. Plus, that Phillies offense with Rollins, Victorino, and Howard isn’t splitting up anytime soon.
#10. Manny Ramirez (LF), Free Agent: Manny hit the ground running when he was traded to the Dodgers (.396/17 HR/53 RBI). Why isn’t he higher in my draft? Well come on, he is good, but not hitting .400 good. Those numbers were god-like and can’t be duplicated again. Yet, a 30-HR, 100-RBI season is conceivable. Keep in mind that 2008 was the first time Manny played in more than 133 games since 2005. He is also going to get a huge contract when he hits free agency so there may be a possibility that he will play his butt off in his first season with a new team (if he joins a new team that is).
#11. Johan Santana (SP), New York Mets: Santana made 34 starts and 28 of them were quality outings. He also lead the majors in ERA with his career best 2.53 (just edging out Cliff Lee who had a 2.54). Santana struck out 206 batters which was his 5th straight season with 200+ K’s. He was once again nearly untouchable in the 2nd half when he posted an 8-0 record and a 2.17 ERA. He is the only pitcher worthy of a first round pick because he puts up these numbers year after year.
#12. Ryan Howard (1B), Philadelphia Phillies: The average may have been scary for most of the season but, Howard is still the best HR and RBI man in the game. Howard’s totals for the season were 48 HR and 146 RBI. He also scored 105 runs. 2008 was his worst season for batting average so we can cut him some slack in that department. Besides, the ridiculous power outweighs his ability to make contact. Even if you are scared of his average, just keep in mind that he his a career .302 hitter post-break (.299 July, .283 August, and .313 September).