BY JAY CLEMONS
Scott Boehm/Getty Images
Hopefully by now, you've taken the time to enjoy (or dismiss) the SI.com Fantasy Baseball Preview. I say 'dismiss' with no sarcasm whatsoever because it's your right to loathe that ZackGreinke topped Tim Lincecum amongst
Regarding The Big Board, aka The Top 200list of fantasy players in 5x5 mixed leagues, I originally had a great introduction planned, one that explained my rationale for some of the eye-openingpicks. But for whatever reason, the SI powers-that-be couldn't find any room for it. This isn't to knock their decision; but at the same time, I believe thatsome form of prologue is necessary -- especially with rankings that can interpreted 50 different ways by 50 different fantasy owners. So here it is:
Ironically enough, the most pain associated with writing an expansive fantasy baseball preview lies with the section that takes the shortest amount oftime to complete -- SI.com's Top 200 player listing for the 2010 season. While I'm proud of the rankings -- beginning with Albert Pujols andending with Orioles stud pitcher Brian Matusz -- I also know that our readers will come away from the experience with more questions thananswers. "Jon Lester at No. 22 ... really?" Or, "Are you high ... Johan Santana at 96?" Or, "Do you have something againstDerek Jeter?" And finally something like, "What would possess anyone to rank Carlos Gonzalez over MannyRamirez?"
The logic behind the rankings is simple: With the exception of a few elite pitchers and players with multiple-position versatility, I followed mypositional rankings to the letter ... and then assigned a value for that player and his position. For example, since the pool at third base is rathershallow, I placed a higher value on Chicago's Aramis Ramirez (No. 53) than Seattle pitcher Cliff Lee (No. 67) -- eventhough Lee probably carries more individual weight in fantasyland. To use a football analogy, I essentially Belichick'd my way through this process, to thechagrin of many, for sure.
In time, these rankings will prove to be more right than wrong; but if you're looking for a less volatile muse for draft day, simply refer to thepositional breakdowns and then branch out with your own Top 200. Trust me, it's harder than it looks. Good luck in 2010!
**I don't foresee any circumstance where I'll draft Joe Mauer in AL-only or mixed leagues. The reasons are two-fold: First, I could nevervalue the catcher spot over a dominant middle infielder, 5-tool outfielder or power-hitting corner infielder in Round 1 ... and I don't anticipate himfalling to Round 2. Secondly, I had the amazing fortune of landing Mauer in Round 9 of an AL-only draft last year (thanks to his well-chronicled backproblems) and would stubbornly refuse to pay a Round-1 price for someone that came around pick No. 104 last March.
**I won't be surprised if Victor Martinez (No. 3) trumps Brian McCann (or even Mauer) in the totality of production, but Iwill be shocked if Jorge Posada (No. 4) ends up cracking the top-3.
**Outside of the top-5 studs, Miguel Montero (No. 7) and Ryan Doumit (No. 13) are the biggest wild cards of the group.Either one could end up in the elite strata ... or finish somewhere in the 12-15 range. Yikes!
**For AL-only leagues, I pledge to draft Indians prospect Carlos Santana with my last pick, when available. If he's as good as the so-calledexperts say, then 15 HRs/55 RBIs/.286 BA seems like a doable rookie campaign.
**I may have erred in projecting only 114 RBIs for Miguel Cabrera. Can I get an Amen! on 124?
**There was no more difficult process than trying to decipher the fantasy differences between Miggy, Ryan Howard, Prince Fielder, Mark Teixeira,Justin Morneau, Mark Reynolds and Adrian Gonzalez. You could make a case for either stud at No. 2 (behind Pujols, of course) andNo. 8 at that position.
**Speaking of Reynolds, I believe he's more apt to equal or surpass 24 steals than 44 homers this season.
**Joey Votto will be a top-5 first baseman in next year's preview; subsequently, I may have undersold his 2010 projections of 27 HRs, 95RBIs, 86 runs, 4 steals, .320 average.
Here's something that didn't make the Preview -- the top 25 AL-only starting pitchers:
1. Zack Greinke, Royals
2. Jon Lester, Red Sox
3. CC Sabathia, Yankees
4. Justin Verlander, Tigers
5. Felix Hernandez, Mariners
6. Cliff Lee, Mariners
7. Javier Vazquez, Yankees
8. Josh Beckett, Red Sox
9. James Shields, Rays
10. Jake Peavy, White Sox
11. Kevin Slowey, Twins
12. Matt Garza, Rays
13 Jered Weaver, Angels
14. John Lackey, Red Sox
15. A.J. Burnett, Yankees
16. Scott Baker, Twins
17. Brett Anderson, Athletics
18. Daisuke Matsuzaka, Red Sox
19. David Price, Rays
20. Brian Matusz, Orioles
21. John Danks, White Sox
22. Jeff Niemann, Rays
23 Rick Porcello, Tigers
24. Wade Davis, Rays
25. Rich Harden, Rangers
**Strange but true: It's my professional opinion that Ian Kinsler has generated the least fantasy hype of his last three preseasons --despite posting career highs in HRs, RBIs, steals and games played last season. Perhaps it's the realization that Chase Utley is theunquestioned Pujols of the second basemen.
**Conventional thinking won out when picking Dustin Pedroia (No. 3) over Brian Roberts, but it may not last through springtraining. Bottom line: As great as Pedroia is, he'll need to hit comfortably over .300 to have better pound-for-pound numbers over Roberts, who improvedgreatly in HRs/RBIs last year.
**Second base is seemingly deeper now than at any time in the last five seasons, which makes the case of Dan Uggla particularly interesting.Do fantasy owners take a calculated gamble and wait to fill this position last amongst everyday players, or will they opt for Uggla's rumber-stamped goodness(30 HRs/91 RBIs/93 runs) and badness (batting average somewhere between .243 and .260?)
**Is Ian Stewart ready to take another giant leap in the land of second basemen? And if so, does he possess the upside of a fellow 'Ian' --namely Kinsler?
**On the surface, Aaron Hill (No. 9) and Ben Zobrist (No.11) are getting a raw deal -- especially coming off monsterseasons. But as a staunch conservative -- aside from Stewart's projections, apparently -- I need to see a greater sample size of success before ticketingHill/Zobrist for perpetual greatness. In the fantasy biz, this is called selective bias.
**With a back-end pick in Round 1 (12- or 14-team league), I will certainly target either Miggy, Howard or Evan Longoria at that spot --with no exceptions. In my opinion, third base has the most question marks of any everyday position ... so why not grab the stud who could realistically catchA-Rod in four categories?
**Aramis Ramirez has inexplicably lost his fantasy buzz. Oh sure, the Cubs are an erratic team, on the whole, but there is no doubting thefantasy greatness of Aram-Ram (or Derrek Lee) when they're both in the lineup. Feel free to dance a jig around your friends at the bar, uponlanding Ramirez in Round 5.
**I think it's fair to ask this about Pablo Sandoval: Will his significant weight loss in the offseason lead to more steals, hits and runs... but fewer homers?
**Unless the art of hitting has completely passed by 38-year-old Chipper Jones, I still see him as a reasonable lock for .315 and 20 homers.He might even be a good bet for 85-90 RBIs in the Braves' rejiggered (and more potent) lineup.
**If you're looking for a good bar bet with friends or frenemies ... make a wager on who'll have greater fantasy stats this year -- AlexGordon or Casey McGehee? I have Gordon (No. 14) ranked higher, but McGehee (No. 16) will post better numbers if he starts fivegames per week.
**The biggest gamble of all the infielders? Jose Reyes and his No. 2 ranking among shortstops -- which assumes 115 runs and 66 steals.Ambitious? Yes. Crazy? Perhaps. Brilliant? No doubt about it. (cue devilish grin)
**Only three shortstops have a shot at 30 homers this season (Hanley Ramirez, Troy Tulowitzki, J.J. Hardy) ... but eight have a realisticchance of 30 steals (Ramirez, Reyes, Jimmy Rollins, Jason Bartlett, Alcides Escobar, Emilio Bonifacio, Everth Cabrera, Elvis Andrus).
**Not even Fenway Park can help Marco Scutaro reach last year's across-the-board goodness (12 HRs, 60 RBIs, 100 runs, 14 steals, .282average), but he remains a lead-pipe cinch for 100 runs, if healthy.
**I wanted to project Derek Jeter for 20-plus homers and 70-plus RBIs, but the specter of playing 155 games -- at the second-most demandingposition (next to catcher) -- just looms too big for the Yankee wunderkind, who turns 36 in June.
**Miguel Tejada should reap the benefits of his move back to Camden Yards. And we, as fantasy owners, shall reap the benefits of onemore year of Tejada's shortstop value ... since he's making the full-time move to third base this spring. Of course, the whole experiment might be short-lived if Baltimore's highlytouted farmhands -- 3B Josh Bell and SS Mychal Givens -- get promoted sooner than later.
What's good for the goose is good for the gander ... the top 25 NL-only pitchers:
1. Tim Lincecum, Giants
2. Roy Halladay, Phillies
3. Adam Wainwright, Cardinals
4. Dan Haren, Diamondbacks
5. Josh Johnson, Marlins
6. Yovani Gallardo, Brewers
7. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
8. Tommy Hanson, Braves
9. Ubaldo Jimenez, Rockies
10. Johan Santana, Mets
11. Ricky Nolasco, Marlins
12. Matt Cain, Giants
13 Wandy Rodriguez, Astros
14. Cole Hamels, Phillies
15. Chad Billingsley, Dodgers
16. Chris Carpenter, Cardinals
17. Roy Oswalt, Astros
18. Jair Jurrjens, Braves
19. Ryan Dempster, Cubs
20. Jorge de la Rosa, Rockies
21. Edwin Jackson, Diamondbacks
22. Randy Wells, Cubs
23 Carlos Zambrano, Cubs
24. Zach Duke, Pirates
25. Stephen Strasburg, Nationals
With pitchers and catchers already settled in at camp, and Cactus and Grapefruit League games soon in the offing, it's the perfect time to take fantasyquestions, via Twitter:
@samhepner says: If you're picking 4th overall (head2head league), do you go after shallowpositions or best numbers? I normally go shallow position, but Ryan Braun's tempting me to change my strategy.
Answer: Ideally, Sam, you'd draft more for positional scarcity in a head-to-head league than straight-up roto ones. And tobe honest, I could make a solid case for either Braun, Matt Kemp, Chase Utley, Miguel Cabrera, Ryan Howard or Joe Mauer atNo. 4 -- regardless of league type -- that would satisfy your requirement for positional scarcity, as well. In a 10-team league, you'd definitely want topursue Utley at the 4 slot, but in a 12- or 14-team league, and one that has five starters per team, that's 60-70 starters in the outfield. Might as well getthe stud of all studs -- Braun or Kemp -- while the getting's good. Thanks.
Need a Hamburger Helper-like hand with your research? Check out these sites:
**Baseball America's 2010 TopProspects
**Rotowire Player Search Database (great for targeting prospects)
**MinorLeagueBaseball.com's Stats page
**MLB.com's Fantasy Page
**The Hardball Times
**Dallas Morning News' Rangers blog (co-writers Evan Grant, author)
**Seattle Times' Mariners blog (Geoff Baker, author)
Some people characterize the No. 7 pick in a 12-team draft as a two-hour exercise in futility. Basically sitting in No Man's Land for the wholeprocess, powerless to control the proceedings, while hoping that good value will consistently fall into your lap every 11th or 13th pick. Well, hath no fearor ambivalence ... because here's a great strategy for nailing your mixed-league draft when owning the 7th and 18th slots:
Round 1, Pick 7: Motive -- Best overall player
1st option: 1B Ryan Howard, Phillies ... 2nd option: 1B Mark Teixeira, Yankees
Round 2, Pick 18 overall: Motive -- Best outfielder or 5-category infielder
1st option: OF Matt Holliday, Cardinals ... 2nd option: 3B David Wright, Mets
Round 3, Pick 31 overall: Motive -- Best starting pitcher or outfielder
1st option: SP Zack Greinke, Royals ... 2nd option: OF Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners
Round 4, Pick 42 overall: Motive -- Best outfielder or power-hitting infielder
1st option: OF Nick Markakis, Orioles ... 2nd option: 1B Joey Votto, Reds
Round 5, Pick 55 overall: Motive -- Best starting pitcher
1st option: SP Felix Hernandez, Mariners ... 2nd option: OF Carlos Lee, Astros
Round 6, Pick 66 overall: Motive -- Best outfielder or top-ranked closer
1st option: OF Bobby Abreu, Angels ... 2nd option: RP Jonathan Papelbon, Red Sox
Round 7, Pick 79 overall: Motive -- Best high-end closer or middle infielder
1st option: RP Mariano Rivera, Yankees ... 2nd option: SS Jason Bartlett, Rays
Round 8, Pick 90 overall: Motive -- Best outfielder or flame-throwing starting pitcher
1st option: OF Andrew McCutchen, Pirates ... 2nd option: SP Yovani Gallardo, Brewers
Round 9, Pick 103 overall: Motive -- Best starting pitcher or high-end closer
1st option: SP Chad Billingsley, Dodgers ... 2nd option: 1B Billy Butler, Royals
Round 10, Pick 114 overall: Motive -- Best infielder or high-end closer
1st option: C Matt Wieters, Orioles ... 2nd option: RP Joakim Soria, Royals
Round 11, Pick 127: Motive -- Best corner infielder or starting pitcher
1st option: 3B Michael Young, Rangers ... 2nd option: SP Matt Garza, Rays
Round 12, Pick 138: Motive -- Best starting pitcher
1st option: SP Wandy Rodriguez, Astros ... 2nd option: SP Jair Jurrjens, Braves
Round 13, Pick 151: Motive -- Best outfielder or starting pitcher
1st option: OF Corey Hart, Brewers ... 2nd option: SP Roy Oswalt, Astros
Round 14, Pick 162: Motive -- Best starting pitcher or speedy infielder
1st option: SP James Shields, Rays ... 2nd option: SS Elvis Andrus, Rangers
Round 15, Pick 175: Motive -- Best middle infielder or outfielder (emphasis on speed)
1st option: SS Elvis Andrus, Rangers ... 2nd option: RP Frank Francisco, Rangers
Round 16, Pick 186: Motive -- Best closer
1st option: RP Jose Valverde, Tigers ... 2nd option: RP Chad Qualls, Diamondbacks
Round 17, Pick 199: Motive -- Best available player
1st option: SP Kevin Slowey, Twins ... 2nd option: OF Juan Rivera, Angels
Round 18, Pick 210: Motive -- Best starting pitcher or outfielder
1st option: SP Brett Anderson, Athletics ... 2nd option: OF Drew Stubbs, Reds
Round 19, Pick 223: Motive -- Best closer or high-end rookie
1st option: RP Mike Gonzalez, Orioles ... 2nd option: C Miguel Montero, Diamondbacks
Round 20, Pick 234: Motive -- Best high-end rookie or closer
1st option: OF Jason Heyward, Braves ... 2nd option: RP Jason Frasor, Blue Jays
Round 21, Pick 247: Motive -- Best outfielder or starting pitcher
1st option: OF Julio Borbon, Rangers ... 2nd option: SP Brandon Morrow, Blue Jays