By Simon Stracher:
While there is an off season for regular baseball, there is none for Fantasy Baseball (only for lazy owners). In order to to contend for your league's title every year, you always have to be scouting players, and deciding who is a stud, and who is a scrub. I bring to you my official 2011 Fantasy Baseball Hitter Rankings, Regular League edition. If you don't agree with my rankings, shoot me an email at email@example.com, or post a comment about how horribly moronic I am. Either way, enjoy!
My Top-5 draft day fantasy Rankings
1. Albert Pujols- This is a no-brainer. Pujols is the most consistent hitter in the Major Leagues, and is the best. Yes, I know Joey Votto won NL MVP last year, but that was a career year, and his BABIP was .361. Pujols hasn't had under a 7 WAR since 2002, his sophomore season. The most amazing thing to me about Pujols is if you take his worst individual stats from different years and combine them, you would get a .312 average, 34 home runs, 116 RBIs, 99 runs, and 177 hits. Even his worst stats make him a first ballot Hall of Famer. The man is unparalleled, and is a freaking machine. Nuff' said.
2. Carl Crawford- Right now you're probably thinking, "Carl fooking Crawford? Really?" Before you jump right into that thought, let me make my case for him. Crawford the past three years has gone in the second or third round in most drafts. Its only this year that people have him finally going as a first rounder (mainly because he was just signed by the Sox and is finally getting the attention he deserves). Carl Crawford, for the past two years, has been one of two people who have been in the top five of ESPN's "Player Rater" which correctly calculates how good a player is in Fantasy Baseball. The only other person to be in the top five two years in a row is the Machine himself, Albert Pujols. And last year, Crawford finished 2nd in Player Rater, ahead of Miguel Cabrera, Joey Votto, Hanley Ramirez, Josh Hamilton, Jose Bautista, and even the almighty Albert Pujols. He finished 2nd to Carlos Gonzalez, who had a career year (and a .384 BABIP). This year, he would have finished in the top five if he had played for the Rays, and now he is on the Red Sox, a team with a much deeper lineup and a much easier stadium to hit in. Fenway Park was 7th in ESPN MLB Park Factors. Tropicana Field was 30 out of 30. I rest my case.
3. Hanley Ramirez- Personally I'm not that high on Hanley, but he gets here because of position scarcity. He finished 12th on Player Rater last year, and the year before was 3rd. But because he plays at the weakest position in all of baseball, and is a candidate for a "breakout" season, he gets up this high. In reality, what you saw from Hanley in 2008 is probably what you are going to get. In 2007 and 2009 (arguably his two best years) he had BABIPs of .353 and .379, respectively. In 2010, his GB% was 51%, the highest of his career. Also, his LD% was 16.3%, the lowest of his career. It was no coincidence that he had the lowest BABIP of his career and the second lowest average. If you decide you might draft him, you should think twice about it.
4. Robinson Cano- Cano is easily the best player at a position that does not have much depth. He finished 11th on the Player Rater last season, and all of his peripherals were trending in the right direction. His LD% was 19%, his career average, and his GB% was 4% lower than his career average. His FB% was also 4% higher than his career average and his BABIP was 4 points higher than his career average, at .326. The most important thing I saw from Cano last season was how his walk rate improved dramatically. in 2009 it was 4.5%, and in 2010 it was 8.2%. When a player's walk rate improves, it usually means he is maturing as a hitter and you can expect a break out season. Cano looks like a player entering his prime, and I might even expect a season better than last year.
5. Evan Longoria- Yes, I know he hit only 22 home runs last year, but I'm here to tell you that you should expect a breakout year in 2011. Why? Because since his debut in 2008, his walk rate, strikeout rate, GB%, LD%, and FB% have all been progressively improving. Every single advanced statistic is saying he should have a breakout year, and if he doesn't, I will personally not eat any bagels for an entire year. He finished 27th in the Player Rater last year, so even if he has the same year as he did last year, he still won't kill your team like Matt Kemp. He's only 25, and if you're still iffy on those home-runs remember that he had 15 stolen bases last year and is entering his prime. If your confident about your late round picks, then Longoria is the guy for you.
I am sorry that I only did rankings 1-5, but rankings 6-10 will be up by Wednesday