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Nine for now

Nine For Now

Now that we've reached July and have three months of a six-month season in our rear view mirror, it's time to take a look back at what the first nine picks of your draft should've looked liked with the aid of 20/20 hindsight. While a couple of the picks went along with the chalk selections, many, including the man at the top of the heap, were not, making this one of the more highly competitive fantasy baseball seasons in a while.

For more insights, follow SI's fantasy expert David Sabino on Twitter at SI_DavidSabino.

1Ubaldo Jimenez, Rockies
Ubaldo Jimenez, Rockies
The Rockies ace is a complete game-changer in 2010 and head and shoulders better than the competition. Going 14-1 with a 1.83 ERA, 6.3 hits per nine innings, all big league bests, Jimenez contributed to baseball's rash of no-hitters by whitewashing the Braves in April. He's strung together two three-start streaks in which he has pitched at least six innings while allowing no earned runs. He's scuffled in his last two starts, allowing 10 earned runs in 11 2/3 innings. Three wins better than the field and with a minimum 15 starts left, he's a virtual lock to become just the NL's second 20-game winner since 2005.
 
2Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
Once billed as the next Albert Pujols, the pupil has, at least thus far this season, surpassed the master, mashing the cover off the ball for Detroit. He's tied for the big league league lead in two of the three Triple Crown jewels (20 home runs, 68 RBIs), and his .337 batting average is close enough to the AL lead to begin the Yaz-watch for the second half.
 
3Josh Hamilton, Rangers
Josh Hamilton, Rangers
As the weather heated up in Arlington, so did Hamilton, who drove in 31 of his 58 runs for the season during the month. Nobody has a sweeter swing from the left side of the dish than Hamilton and nobody was better in June, as he went on a .454/.482/.815 clip for the month, all of which were the best in the bigs.
 
4Vladimir Guerrero, Rangers
Vladimir Guerrero, Rangers
Perhaps the biggest bargain in baseball, Guerrero could muster only a $5.5 million contract from Texas after suffering from back problems his last two seasons in Anaheim. He's in the driver's seat for Comeback Player of the Year, an effort he punctuated Wednesday night by going 4-4 with two home runs against his former Angels teammates to tie Miguel Cabrera for the big league lead in RBIs. He also ranks among the Top 10 in the AL in hits (96), runs (51), home runs (18) and batting average (.339) while striking out just once every 10.5 at bats. He had nearly an identical line through June 2004 (19 home runs, 68 RBI, .344 average) when he took home AL MVP honors.
 
5Albert Pujols, Cardinals
Albert Pujols, Cardinals
Perhaps King Albert is a Cardinal in a coal mine when it comes to which league's pitchers are truly having the better season, as he remains the top masher in the Senior Circuit, yet is a step behind the pace of the leaders of the AL. It's never a good idea to underestimate the reigning MVP, who, as history tells us, will find his way to the top of the charts in nearly every major statistical category by year's end, but so far he hasn't cracked the Top 4.
 
6Josh Johnson, Marlins
Josh Johnson, Marlins
Another in the long line of Marlins stud pitchers who won't get his just rewards from mainstream fans until he escapes from the obscurity of South Florida, Johnson is well known among those in the fantasy world due to his outstanding track record. This year he's been on top of his game as the only regular NL starter with a sub-1.00 WHIP (0.99), ranking fifth in strikeouts per inning (also 0.99), and ranking just percentage points behind Jimenez in ERA (1.83). A few more wins (eight) are all it would take for Johnson to challenge for the title of fantasy pitcher of the year.
 
7Robinson Cano, Yankees
Robinson Cano, Yankees
Many people around baseball have long believed Cano would one day win a batting title, and so far in 2010 he's done nothing to discourage the idea, batting .353 to lead the majors. He's also been the Yankees' most consistent hitter overall,slugging higher than .500 and batting over .333 in each of the first three months, and his 56 runs scored is tied for fifth-most in the majors.
 
8Adam Wainwright, Cardinals
Adam Wainwright, Cardinals
The king of the quality start, Wainwright has gone 23 straight outings at Busch Stadium, where he's pitched at least six innings and surrendered no more than three runs. He's second only to Jimenez in wins (11) and among the major league leaders in every meaningful fantasy measure for a starter (114 K's, 6th; 2.34 ERA, 4th; 1.06 WHIP, 4th).
 
9Roy Halladay, Phillies
Roy Halladay, Phillies
One glance at his 9-7 record and you'd think that Halladay was having a pedestrian season, but nothing could be further from the truth. The major league leader in shutouts (3) and complete games (6), including a perfecto in Miami on May 29, Halladay has been the hard-luck loser three times in quality starts, including two games when he allowed two runs or less while pitching eight or more innings. He's also in the mix for best ERA in the NL (2.42) and gets slightest of edges for this final slot over Milwaukee's Yovanni Gallardo (8-3, 2.54 ERA), who currently leads the majors in strikeouts (120).
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