<i>The rankings are a hybrid of SI.com writer Jay Clemons' positional rankings, positional scarcity and the standard Average Draft Position values (ADP) that you'll see on various Web sites.</i><br><br>Talk about a sure thing. Pujols is the Alex Rodriguez (when healthy) of the National League (minus the drama). He's a lead-pipe cinch for 36 HRs, 120 RBIs, 110 runs and a .340 average. And if he would ever flirt with 10 thefts in a season -- even before turning 30 -- he'd be the consensus No. 1 overall pick. In the meantime, he'll just have to settle with being the best first baseman -- by a country mile.
2 of 25Heinz Kluetmeier/SI
Hanley Ramirez, Marlins
Not only is Hanley the runaway choice for No. 1 shortstop, but he's on the short list of candidates (along with Albert Pujols and David Wright) for the No. 1 overall pick in mixed league drafts. And here's a scary thought: For a guy who's averaging 32 HRs, 123 runs, 45 steals and a .315 average ... I think Ramirez could see a serious uptick in RBIs this year (prompted by the Marlins' improved lineup and the extra 25 pounds of muscle to his frame).
3 of 25John Iacono/SI
David Wright, Mets
Wright's stolen bases dipped last season (from 34 in '07 to 15 in '08), but he more than made up for it with huge offensive numbers. The Mets third baseman hit .302, knocked in 124 runs, and slugged 33 home runs in the less-than-friendly confines of Shea Stadium. Wright's numbers may even get a boost at Citi Field, but hitting behind Jose Reyes, and in front of Carlos Beltran, he's a virtual lock to at least replicate his torrid '08.
4 of 25Chuck Solomon/SI
Jose Reyes, Mets
There's no shame in being Hanley-Lite for Reyes, who may have hit the proverbial ceiling in HRs and RBIs ('06) but could easily reach 125 runs and 75 steals this season.
5 of 25Al Tielemans/Sports Illustrated
Tigers 1B Miguel Cabrera bothered by groin injury.
6 of 25Chuck Solomon/SI
Ryan Braun, Brewers
In my mind, Braun's fantasy game bears a strong resemblance to Holliday's during his Coors days (except no one is questioning the altitude of Miller Park). The mild-mannered, media-friendly Braun is already a fantasy monster in Year 3 -- which means you can look forward to 38 HRs, 107 RBIs, 94 runs and 14 steals this season. And if you think he'll hit .300 again ... feel free to vault him one notch higher.
7 of 25Michael Zagaris/SI
Ian Kinsler, Rangers
In my mind, Kinsler is a lead-pipe cinch to surpass his career numbers from '08 (18 HRs, 71 RBIs, 102 runs, 26 steals, .319 average in just 121 games); and, in turn, he's also the safer play over American League MVP Dustin Pedroia -- unless DP steals 35 bases and scores 140 runs.
8 of 25Chuck Solomon/SI
Grady Sizemore, Indians
Grady Sizemore's combination of power and speed is one of the safest bets in fantasy. He's an annual lock for 28 HRs, 116 runs, 87 RBIs and 30 steals.
9 of 25Chuck Solomon/SI
Mark Teixeira, Yankees
When it comes to deciding between Teixeira and Howard, the choice comes down to two factors: Teixeira realistically has a chance for 140 RBIs in the Yankees lineup (along with 30 HRs and 105 runs) ... and I'll be surprised to see Howard hit over .260 -- now that he's inked a three-year, $54 million extension.
10 of 25David E. Klutho/SI
Ryan Howard, Phillies
If there exists a 3x3 fantasy league -- where only HRs, RBIs and runs are offensive factors -- then feel free to bump Mr. Subway sandwiches all the way to 1 or 2 on the list. Yes, Howard is a viable candidate for 50 HRs, 138 RBIs and 100 runs ... but like I stated above, he's also an even-money shot at hitting his weight this season.
11 of 25Brad Mangin/SI
Matt Holliday, Athletics
The preseason magazines have not been kind to Holliday, in the wake of his move from Colorado to Oakland. For no other reason than change-of-address, Holliday has plunged from a top-3 outfielder to the 11-15 area usually reserved for guys in the twilight of their careers. But I cannot, in good conscience, sign off on such a precipitous drop -- especially when you consider that Jose Canseco tallied 42 HRs, 120 runs, 124 RBIs, 40 steals and hit .307 in 1988 ... playing in the same stadium (same dimensions, too) in which Holliday now calls home.
12 of 25Chuck Solomon/SI
Chase Utley, Phillies
If Utley has the look of a man who's 100-percent recovered from offseason surgery during Spring Training ... there's still time to move up one or two spots in this countdown. After all, there'd be no other justification for downgrading someone who has posted staggering 3-year averages of 29 HRs, 103 RBIs, 116 runs, 13 steals and a .310 average.
13 of 25Tom Dahlin/SI
Josh Hamilton, Rangers
Hamilton and Manny Ramirez are the only two outfielders with the capacity to hit .320 and knock in 140 runs this season. It also helps that Hamilton has top-20 potential in HRs (he hit 32 last year), runs and steals.
14 of 25Al Tielemans/SI
Jimmy Rollins, Phillies
Sadly, there has to be a "loser" in the three-stud race of N.L. East shortstops. But if you're lucky enough to grab Rollins in Round 2 of mixed leagues, just remember that his steals and OBP rates rose to all-time highs last year ... and he's primed to experience a similar bump in runs this season, if healthy.
15 of 25Brad Mangin/SI
Brandon Webb, Diamondbacks
While it's true Webb doesn't have the all-universe pitching "indicators" (as published in Lindy's preseason mag) of Tim Lincecum or Johan Santana, he's still fantasyland's most bankable (read: safest) option amongst the established starters. Anchoring the improved Diamondbacks, I'm projecting 19 wins, 3.24 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 190 strikeouts.
16 of 25Mike Powell/SI
Tim Lincecum, Giants
On indicators alone, Lincecum is redoubtably the most attractive starting pitcher in the draft. His Hits/9 rate (7.22) is sound, his K/9 ratio (10.51) is amazing, his opponents' slugging percentage (.316) is the definition of cool and his 2.62 ERA reminds one of John Smoltz in his heyday. But since I'm weary of Lincecum's seismic jump in innings (from '08 to '07) ... I'm going to go conservative here in projecting: 17 wins, 2.98 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 238 strikeouts.
17 of 25Heinz Kluetmeier/SI
Johan Santana, Mets
There really is no difference between Lincecum and Santana at the top ... so I'm not going to overthink his '09 projections: 16 wins (same as last year), 2.86 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and 218 strikeouts.
18 of 25Damian Strohmeyer/SI
Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox
I'm not saying Pedroia will never top the indvidiual 5x5 numbers he posted from last year -- 17 HRs, 83 RBIs, 118 runs, 20 steals, .326 average -- but it's also reasonable to predict he'll never register better across-the-board stats than '08.
19 of 25Robert Beck/SI
Manny Ramirez, Dodgers
There's no justification in denigrating Manny's fantasyland impact. The man is four percentage points away from averaging a 1.000 OPS in the last three years. He's also a top-5 performer in batting average, HRs, runs and RBIs.
20 of 25Gary Bogdon/SI
Jonathan Papelbon, Red Sox
He's a strong candidate for a 2.29 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 40-plus saves and a super-high K/9 ratio.
21 of 25Tom Dahlin/SI
Justin Morneau, Twins
I have successfully traded for Morneau three straight seasons in AL-only leagues, which begs the question, Why don't I just draft him in late March and save myself the mental energy of pulling off a midseason trade? I couldn't agree more. Morneau has evolved into a lead-pipe cinch for 31 HRs, 111 RBIs, 90 runs and .300 average ... and I should move heaven and earth to grab him in Round 2 (Round 3 for mixed leagues).
22 of 25Fred Vuich/SI
Joe Nathan, Twins
Choosing between Papelbon and Nathan isn't exactly <i>Sophie's Choice</i> ... it's more like choosing between chocolate-and-peanut butter ice cream and mint chocolate chip ice cream: Translation: You cannot lose either way -- just expect a better WHIP from Nathan and slightly more saves from Paps.
23 of 25Chuck Solomon/SI
CC Sabathia, Yankees
The $151-million man is a major wild card in this countdown; and, per usual, I choose to err on the side of caution with guys who threw a ton of innings last year (253). Conservatively speaking, I have him down for 16 wins, 2.88 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and 232 strikeouts.
24 of 25Al Tielemans/SI
Alfonso Soriano, Cubs
Is it just me, or does Soriano seem to do better in fantasyland when his doubters are in greater supply than his sycophants? If that's the case, then Soriano's dwindling supporters (like me) can expect another monster season for the oft-injured, yet immensely talented Cub. To be fair, I don't think Soriano will match his 40-40 season from '06; but he seems like a virtual lock for 32 HRs, 81 RBIs, 17 steals and -- get this -- a staggering 117 runs (assuming he hits leadoff).
25 of 25Chuck Solomon/SI
Lance Berkman, Astros
I'm a big fan of Fat Elvis' game in HRs, RBIs, runs and average (he's genetically perfect for 4x4 leagues). But I have severe doubts of him repeating 18 steals from a year ago, which explains the less-than-flattering ranking for a guy who's a perennial lock for 30 HRs, 100 RBIs, 100 runs and a .310 average.
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