Who is really the best baseball team in the majors? I honestly don't know but I try to figure that out by using basic and advanced statistics. I live for talking about baseball, it's my biggest drive in my life and I will jump on the opportunity to talk baseball with anyone, even with people who I don't really like. For me, Baseball is a piece of art that sits in my mind all day, ready to be painted on at any point of the day.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Fantasy: 2011 Keeper Fantasy Baseball Hitter Rankings 6-10

Which of these two players made the cut? Read on to find out

By Simon Stracher

As promised, here are my 6-10 Keeper League Rankings, and if you haven't read my 1-5 rankings click here. Also, remember that these rankings are not final, and I will constantly be updating them as the season progresses.

6. Troy Tulowitzki- Tulo is young (26 years old) and plays shortstop, a position with not many viable starting options. Fangraphs has a great article on all the relevant Keeper League shortstops here. Also, in four seasons in the Major Leagues, Tulo has posted over a 5.4 WAR three times. He also seems to be progressing at a good rate, evidenced by this data table.
  • wRC+
    • 2008 - 82
    • 2009 - 135
    • 2010 – 150
  • wOBA
    • 2008 - .313
    • 2009 - .393
    • 2010 - .408
  • wRAA
    • 2008 - -5.4
    • 2009 – 33.4
    • 2010 – 37.1
  • OBP
    • 2008 - .332
    • 2009 - .377
    • 2010 - .381
  • Avg.
    • 2008 – .263
    • 2009 – .297
    • 2010 - .315
  • RBI
    • 2008 - 46
    • 2009 - 92
    • 2010 – 95
  • 2B
    • 2008 – 24
    • 2009 – 25
    • 2010 – 32
  • WAR
    • 2008 – .9
    • 2009 – 5.7
    • 2010 – 6.4
Tulowitzki has increased in every statistical category, and doesn't seem to be slowing down. The even better thing is, it's not artificial, as his career BABIP is .319 and he has had BABIPs of .316 and .327 in '09 and '10, respectively. My only main concern with him is his injury history (he has missed 112 games combined in the '08, '09, and '10 seasons). But, even with those injuries he has still been a top flight shortstop, and he has a chance to become better than Hanley if he can stay healthy. My prediction for 2011: 31 home-runs, 102 RBIs, a .297 average, and a .373 OBP. I'd expect him to get even better as the years go on, so consider yourself lucky if you get him at number six.

7. Robinson Cano- Ever since his ill-fated 2008 season, (.271 average, an 86 wRC+, and a WAR of .2) Cano has established himself as the best hitting second baseman in all of baseball, even better then Chase Utley and Dustin Pedroia. In 2010, Cano had his best year to date in the Majors with a .319 batting average, 29 home-runs, a wRC+ of 145, and a WAR of 6.4. While Cano may not get you as many points as the other people on this list, you can lock him down for a top 15 ranking at the end of the year, and he has a great chance to finish higher. Cano, like Evan Longoria, is progressing at a slow, but steady rate, and I would not be surprised if he surpassed the numbers he put up last year. Expect 31 home-runs, a .320 to .330 average, 115 RBIs, and a OBP of .385. The OBP may seem high, but remember, Cano is no longer the free-swinging batter he was in the early part of his career. In 2010, his walk rate was 8.2%, almost double his 2009 %, and he had a OBP of .381. Cano is the best second baseman in the draft, and is entering his prime, so don't be afraid to pick him even earlier

8. Joey Votto- Votto
proved last year that he belonged in the discussion of best first baseman in the league, and it should have been no surprise after he posted a 158 wRC+ and 4.6 WAR in '09. He had his breakout season in 2010 with a .324 average, a .424 OBP, 37 home-runs, and a 177 wRC+. That line was good enough to win the NL MVP, and he certainly deserved it. But, there are three reasons why he isn't ranked higher; One; there is so much depth at first base, two; he isn't as established as the other people on this list and three; last year Votto had a BABIP of .361. That is bound to go down and will most likely result in a batting average near .300 (which is pretty good). Even with those three "problems" Votto easily makes it in the top ten and will be a very productive player for years to come.

9. Carlos Gonzalez- I know Gonzalez wasn't even in my top ten for regular league, which seems absurd considering how well he did last year, but I have my reasons. For one, he had a .384 BABIP last year (average is around .300) and two, this was his first full season so I am predicting some sort of a "sophomore slump". He will most likely go much earlier, considering how well he did last year and how he is only 25 years old. If you decide to take him early, don't expect to be contending for your league's title in 2011, as he production will fall off significantly. He makes it on to this list because of his age and the hope he can build off his 2010 season. For 2011, I project a .296 average, 28 home-runs, 95 RBIs, and a .347 OBP. Good numbers, but not what you would expect out of a top ten guy. They are also very similar to Nick Swisher's 2010 season. I am in no way saying that Swisher is of equal value to Gonzalez, but keep in mind that Swisher will likely go 7-8 rounds later than Gonzalez.

10. Ryan Zimmerman- If you don't know what WAR is, well, then you probably shouldn't be reading this blog. But if you do know what it is, you'll be in a big shock to learn that Zimmermann was 4th overall in WAR last year ahead of household names like Miguel Cabrera, Robinson Cano, Hanley Ramirez, David Wright, Evan Longoria, Ryan Braun, Carlos Gonzalez and many more. The only people who were ahead of him were (in order) Josh Hamilton (8.0), Joey Votto (7.4), and Albert Pujols (7.3). Zimmermann had a WAR of 7.2, barely behind Pujols and Votto. Zimmermann easily could have been the second best player in baseball last season, instead he had to settle for fourth (boo-hoo). Dave Cameron, the brilliant writer of U.S.S. Mariner and Fangraphs, has even called Zimmermann "the franchise player". Now Zimmerman has some lineup protection in Jayson Werth, which should benefit his RBIs and Runs scored. Zimmerman is easily the number two third baseman for 2011, and has a good shot at taking Evan Longoria's title as best third baseman in the game. Zimmerman at 10 is a great pick, and any owner should be happy with him at this position.

Notable Players Missing: Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, and David Wright

All three of these players were ranked in the top ten of my Regular League Rankings, with Crawford being ranked number two, but I just couldn't put them in the top ten for Keeper Rankings, all for the same reason; they're too old. Now this may sound strange considering that they are all under 30, but I have my reasons. For one, Wright seems to be declining at a steady rate (highest K rates of his career in'09 and '10), and because of this, he may never get back to the levels of greatness he was at before his 2009 season. Gonzalez isn't in the top ten because it came down to him and Joey Votto, and Votto is one year younger and won the NL MVP in 2010. Crawford isn't in the top ten because he is 29 and relies so much on speed, within the next 3-4 years his steal numbers will most likely plateau and then decline drastically. The only players I can think of who kept their speed in their mid-thirties are Ichiro, Kenny Lofton, and Juan Pierre. Even if Crawford can somehow keep all of his speed, (very unlikely) there is even less of a chance that his hitting doesn't plummet within 3-4 years, considering he will soon be on the wrong side of 30, and almost every player goes through some sort of a decline after 30 (excluding steroid users). With this in mind, I just couldn't bring myself to place them in the top ten for Keeper Rankings. Better luck next year.

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