March 14, 2007

There is one certainty with this year's fantasy draft: Albert Pujols. But, fear not, owners of the dreaded No. 2 pick: Johan Santana is a fantastic consolation prize. Picking pitching early is sometimes discouraged in fantasy, but Santana is so much better and more consistent than the next-best starter that's he well worth the selection. Add him to another bona fide ace in Carlos Zambrano, a top-notch closer in Trevor Hoffman and young arms like Matt Cain and Ervin Santana, and I think I scored the best pitching staff in the draft. Manny, Morneau and Victor Martinez should anchor my offense, and late picks Jeremy Hermida and Morgan Ensberg will add value.

1. Johan Santana, P, Twins: As dependable and dominant as any pitcher in his three-plus years as a full-time starter. A third Cy Young -- and a huge payday -- surely await him at season's end.

2. Manny Ramirez, OF, Red Sox: Forget the off-field distractions. You know who Manny's going to be this year? Manny.

3. Justin Morneau, 1B, Twins: It's hard to pass up the AL MVP in the third round.

4. Carlos Zambrano, P, Cubs: How there were only five SPs picked in the first four rounds is beyond me. And Zambrano is pitching for a long-term contract in the offseason.

5. Victor Martinez, C, Indians: Thankfully, he'll be staying at catcher, so his value remains much higher than if he had moved to 1B. He should help anchor the middle of an improved Indians lineup.

6. Trevor Hoffman, P, Padres: The reigning NL Cy Young runner-up has 37 or more saves in 10 of the last 11 seasons, and he should do the same again this summer.

7. Jeff Kent, 2B, Dodgers: Round 7 seemed like a good time to stop drafting "best available" and start drafting tough-to-fill positions.

8. Adam Dunn, OF, Reds: Mercifully, strikeouts are not held against you in this league.

9. Edgar Renteria, SS, Braves: As long as he's still in the NL, Renteria remains a solid offensive option at shortstop.

10. Matt Cain, P, Giants: He had a great second half last year and should only improve. My best value pick of the draft...

11. Hank Blalock, 3B, Rangers: ...followed by my worst. I'm an idiot. I immediately regretted taking Blalock. He is "so two years ago."

12. Nick Swisher, 1B/OF, A's: Drafting Swisher is not necessarily an endorsement of chopping wood and pulling tractors for workouts or browsing magazines for dates -- just an endorsement of 35-HR, 95-RBI seasons.

13. Bob Wickman, P, Braves: Surprisingly still dependable, The Wick had a 1.04 ERA while getting 18 saves after being traded to the Braves and should stave off competition from Mike Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano.

14. Ervin Santana, P, Angels: "Magic" isn't just coasting on his rep from beating the Yankees in the 2005 ALDS. His 28 wins the past two years are tops on the Angels.

15. Dave Roberts, OF, Giants: It was probably a stretch to grab the 2004 ALCS hero here, but I'm pretty sure my first 14 picks project to a negative number of stolen bases, so speed was a must.

16. Jose Valverde, P, Diamondbacks: With 30 MLB teams and 12 fantasy owners, it's better to be a "have" than a "have not" when it comes to a third closer.

17. Jeremy Hermida, OF, Marlins: A "can't miss" prospect who, well, missed last year. But one disappointing season does not a career make. Scouts drooled over his potential for a reason.

18. Luis Castillo, 2B, Twins: Maybe a little average, maybe some steals. Heck, he's in my middle infield slot. I'm not expecting much.

19. Greg Maddux, P, Padres: Thankfully it's a fantasy team, so the young guys I picked like Cain won't have to shower next to this veteran prankster. Petco should help his numbers.

20. Morgan Ensberg, 3B, Astros: If his right shoulder is healthy, there's no reason he can't regain his slugging ways at hitter-friendly Minute Maid Park.

21. Milton Bradley, OF, A's: He's not quite the gamer that his name would suggest and he is injury-prone, but Bradley has enough speed and power to be worth the fifth outfield slot.

22. Josh Bard, C, Padres: Bard can't handle a knuckleball, but that's not a prerequisite for being a second-string fantasy catcher.

23. Tim Hudson, P, Braves: One rough year and suddenly he's a last-round pick? I'll take the gamble.

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