Spring training is just around the corner, and in all likelihood we'll see numerous changes throughout both divisions over the next several weeks, heading up to opening day for 2011. Still, it's never too early to start planning to triturate your competition this fantasy season.
As we do every year, the resident Knuckleheads will be moving around the base paths, through the outfield, and onto the pitchers mound to give you the best choices and prospects at each position. We will update these rankings on a regular basis as injuries, trades and position battles alter the fantasy landscape.
The best place to start always seems to be with the number one position of power and offense, first base. Not surprisingly, the first name on our list is likely the first guy to go off most fantasy draft boards this March.
- Albert Pujols, STL ~ He's as good a lock as you get in fantasy sports. Once again he placed Top 5 in every offensive category except stolen bases (and he still managed 14 of those). Runs, Home Runs, Hits, RBIs, Totals bases, Slugging percentage, OBP and average. All in a year where his overall average was a bit low for him. This winter he and the team are talking contract extension, and he'll be hard at work earning his new raise.
- Joey Votto, CIN ~ Votto is no sloppy second. I'm sure a lot of people expect Miguel Cabrera to go here, and I would not argue that choice one bit. My reasoning for placing Votto ahead of him is promise. Both players are 27 starting this season, but Votto is entering only his 4th full season. he has plenty of room to continue to improve on numbers that like Pujols above, and Miggs below were Top 5 in 2010, and he added 16 SBs, which is a stat Miggs won't help you in.
- Miguel Cabrera, DET ~ He led the league in RBIs and Slugging, and like Pujols, was Top 5 everywhere but SB's. The Tigers are fired up to go the distance this season, so don't expect a slump from this guy.
- Adrian Gonzalez, BOS ~ I know, call me crazy. He has never put up Top 5 numbers before, but trust me, this is the year. The move from spacious Petco Park in San Diego to the small confines of Fenway spell goldmine in fantasy production. He could end up leading the league this season, but we'll play it safe at number 4.
- Prince Fielder, MIL ~ This spot was a toss up with the next guy on the list, but Fielder turns that magical age of 27 early in the season, while Tex is over the 30. he struggled with his average in 2010 (.261) but he was fifth in OBP, so I expect that number to improve in 2011.
- Mark Teixiera, NYY ~ He hits like a jackhammer and he plays for an offensive jauggernaut. He posted over 30 HRs again and over 100 RBIs. What killed him in 2010 was a big dip in average (.256), but like Fielder above, I expect that to rise in 2011 and get closer to the .280 - .290 mark he's used to hitting.
- Kevin Youklis, BOS ~ He missed a decent amount of time last season due to a thumb injury, or his presence this high on the list might not be much of a surprise. He's a .300+ hitter with 100 Run and RBI upside playing on an offensive team that just added Adrian Gonzalez. If he gets time again at 3B you may even get dual eligibility out of him.
- Adam Dunn, CWS ~ Dunn is always going to hurt you in SO's and Average, but he will put up offensive numbers as good as/or better than Ryan Howard for a cheaper price tag. A move to the White Sox can only help. I rank him 8th but you can get him as the 11th or 12th 1B off most boards, which is why I rank him higher; value.
- Justin Morneau, MIN ~ J-Mo was on a record setting course in 2010, leading the league with a .345 average, 18 HRs and 56 RBIs in just 81 games before a concussion knocked him out of the season. While it is unlikely he'd have maintained that pace, he was still looking like a solid Top 10, if not Top 5 1B pick.
- Ryan Howard, PHI ~ Howard has the upside of a first round pick, but the reality is, he's a big risk to produce up to his abilities. He'll generally get you 30+ HR's, 100 runs, and 100 RBI's, but he could kill you in average and/or strikeouts.
- Kendry Morales, LAA ~ Another guy with an injury shortned season who is likely to blossom in 2011. A left leg fracture limited his promising 2010 campaign to 51 games, but he made them count. He may be under a lot of people's radar heading into this fantasy baseball season.
- Billy Butler, KCC ~ He's only 24 heading into his 4th full season, and he hit over .300 in 2009, and he hit .318 in 2010. He reduced his strike outs and raised his OBP in 2010, while also leading the league in hits.
- Paul Konerko, CWS ~He pretty much had a career year in 2010, which is why many people will over pay for him in 2011. Don't expect another .312 average season from a soon to be 35-year-old who had a career average of around .275 prior to last season.
- Carlos Lee, HOU ~ Lee played enough at 1B last season to qualify in 2011. His 2010 season started off horribly, though he picked it up down the stretch. I expect to see more of the Carlos of old than the Carlos of 2010 this year. His dual eligibility at 1B and LF is a big bonus.
- Carlos Pena, CHC ~ Pena crashed and burned with his average in 2010 (sub .200) and he's always been a free swinger. This year he moves to Wrigley Field, the National League, and a new team. Look for a resurgence. He will never have a monster average, but he can easily put up 30 Hrs, 100 runs and 100 RBI's for you.
- Aubrey Huff, SF ~ I must admit to being surprised at a reborn Huff in San Francisco. He's always had the skills, but last season he turned them into Top 10 #'s. I'm a bit skeptical about whether or not he can maintain that in 2011, but he offers dual eligibility in the outfield, so he's worth the risk.
- Gaby Sanchez, FLA ~ In his first full season for the fis, Sanchez did a pretty decent job. nothing earthshaking, but a solid start. He would make a good back up 1B, or utility player for your fantasy team.
- Michael Cuddeyer, MIN ~ Cudd is perennially under the radar of most fantasy GMs, but the last two seasons he's nipped at the heels of 100 runs and RBI's and he hit over 30 bombs in 2009.
- Daric Barton, OAK ~ We're getting into upside territory this low on the list, and Barton has loads of it. Keep an eye on him this spring.
- Ike Davis, NYM ~ Like Barton above, Davis had an admirable rookie season for the New York Mets, and he has nothing but upside.
- Derrek Lee, BAL ~ He's still alive, so that means he still has something to offer. A change of scenery to the Orioles might help restore him to a 20 Hr, 100 Run and RBI season. In the 39 games he played for Atlanta last season his average jumped 36 points over his Cubs stats.
- James Loney, LAD ~ He's not a big home run threat, but he's a doubles machine who can get you double-digit SB's as well.
- Mitch Moreland, TEX ~ The rookie had his ups and downs in his late season call up, but he showed enough promise that, I like him to put together a fairly solid full season in 2011.
- Matt LaPorta, CLE ~ While his first full season for the Indians wasn't remotely memorable, this kid has a truckload of potential. He's worth a flyer this far down the list.
- Buster Posey, SF ~ In his rookie campaign, the upstart catcher for the Giants, nailed enough games at 1B to qualify for eligibility in 2011. Did I mention he hit .308 last season. He'll only get better.