Choices, choices. Fantasy baseball owners will have plenty of them come draft day. Should I load up on hitters early? Should I lock down an ace or two? Should I place an emphasis on positional scarcity? Should I target first and third basemen in the first few rounds?
Ah, choices. The spice of life. But even if you settle on a certain position at a certain time, you could be faced with a choice. Each position in the infield, except catcher, features a battle between two players likely to go within just a few picks of one another. If you're faced with one of these choices, make sure you're armed at the draft table with the information necessary to make the right choice.
Meanwhile, Votto has three straight .400-plus OBP seasons. His OPS has topped or approached 1.000 in each of those seasons, as well. His BABIP those three years? .372, .361, and .349. After three years, I feel comfortable saying an unusually high BABIP is a skill of Votto's. He'll even throw in about 10 steals to boot. At the top of the draft, you want to select players with the highest floors. Give me Votto over Gonzalez.
Utley was once a fantasy owner's dream, putting up 30-plus homers, 100-plus RBI, 100-plus runs and nearly 20 steals, all from the second base spot. Unfortunately for baseball fans (except those in Atlanta, Miami, Washington and New York, perhaps), Utley hasn't been able to stay healthy the last two years, and even when he has he has posted middling numbers. Philadelphia's lineup is not nearly as strong as it once was, especially with Ryan Howard out for some time as he recovers from his ruptured Achilles. They have remarkably similar average draft positions, but Weeks is the one you want.
Despite Ramirez's age -- he'll turn 34 in June to Sandoval's 26 in August -- I prefer Milwaukee's new third baseman. He may have had a pair of down seasons in '09 and '10, but those were largely mitigated by injuries. Even so, he hit 15 homers in just 82 games in '09 and 25 a year later in 124 games. At this stage of the draft, he's as rock solid a bet to get 30 homers from anyone. Once your draft gets past these two, things at third base start to get ugly. Kevin Youkilis might be there, but if you miss out on these two, you could be looking at Mark Reynolds' batting average/OBP-draining name in your lineup every day. That is not something you want.
You'll want to have called your third baseman's name by this stage of the draft. If you have a choice between Ramirez and Sandoval, make it Ramirez.
Still, let me put in my two cents for Hardy. Jeter is not simply on the decline; he has declined to the point where I'm not sure I'd rank him as a starting shortstop in a 12-team league. He should still bring decent batting average, 15 steals and 90 or so runs scored, but those aren't numbers that jump off the page, even if you can wait to get him until about the 120th pick. On the other hand, Hardy is coming off a season in which he blasted 30 home runs in 129 games. We've seen this sort of power from him before when he was with the Brewers, so there's no reason to think it's a fluke. Don't let his 101-game stint with the Twins fool you, either. Target Field tamped kept power numbers down all season in '10. Hardy has the most power of any shortstop outside Tulo and maybe, maybe, Hanley.
Don't be fooled by Jeter's name and the glamorous pinstripes he adorns. If you're choosing between these two, Hardy is your guy.